11/17/14 10:00am
11/17/2014 10:00 AM
This shot was found shot with an arrow in July 2011 in Riverhead. It was treated and released back into the wild that September.

This swan was found shot with an arrow in Riverhead in July 2011. It was treated and released back into the wild that September. The person who shot it was never found.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has launched a new hotline for the public to report wildlife and environmental crimes.

The toll-free number is 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267). The 24-hour hotline connects callers to a DEC police dispatcher, according to a press release.

(more…)

10/23/14 8:00am
10/23/2014 8:00 AM
Waste water being aerated in one of the two 750,000-gallon treatment tanks at the Riverhead Sewer District plant. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Waste water being aerated in one of the two 750,000-gallon treatment tanks at the Riverhead Sewer District plant. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A $23.5 million upgrade to Riverhead’s sewer system — which was to have been completed last winter — could take at least two years longer than expected, and the town has applied for an extension of the project completion date from January 2014 to April 2016.

In the meantime, the town is seeking additional funds from the county to help pay for the cost of the upgrade. The town doesn’t have the money.  (more…)

08/31/14 8:00am
08/31/2014 8:00 AM
The airbase was established in 1946 and is currently used by a few area pilots. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The airbase was established in 1946 and is currently used by a few area pilots. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed removing Mattituck Airbase from New York’s Superfund program, saying the property no longer poses a threat to public health or the environment, DEC officials said.

Before it makes a final determination, the DEC will accept public comment for the next month. The property is currently on the state’s Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site list, which identifies properties being investigated for potential hazardous waste and outlines any cleanup efforts taking place.

The airbase, located off New Suffolk Avenue in Mattituck, is one of 11 properties currently being investigated across Riverhead and Southold towns.

It was created in 1946, when Parker Wickham of Mattituck, who overhauled airplane engines during World War II, converted part of his family’s New Suffolk Avenue potato farm into a small airport and plane engine rebuilding shop under the name Mattituck Services, according to previous Suffolk Times coverage. The property is still owned by the Wickham family.

The site currently operates as an “informal airbase used by a few area pilots,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

The 12-acre site included a half-acre parcel where chemicals — including fuels, oils and cleaners — were once used for maintenance and repair work, according to state DEC officials.

According to the state agency’s listing, solvent rinses and wastewater used on the property were discharged to leaching pools in the area from 1946 to 1979, leaving elevated levels of copper, iron, nickel, zinc, lead and cadmium in nearby soils, as well as several pesticide ingredients.

To remedy the pollution, 25 tons of contaminated but non-hazardous soils were excavated from the area surrounding the leaching pools in 1997, with excavation extending at least three feet below the water table, the DEC listing states. The area was then packed with clean fill and closed.

Soil testing conducted in November 2013 found no lingering impact from the contaminants in question and it was determined that no public or environmental threats exist at the site, according to DEC officials.

Mr. Russell said he’s encouraged to hear that the historic site stands to be removed from the Superfund program.

“If the DEC is satisfied, naturally we are,” he said. “Certainly it is in the town’s interest to see all [of these areas] get remediated and delisted.”

Agency officials are asking that any public comments regarding Mattituck Airbase be mailed to Cynthia Whitfield, project manager, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, Remedial Bureau A, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7015 or emailed to cynthia.whitfield@dec.ny.gov. You can also call 518-402-9564.

The comment period will close Oct. 5 and a final decision will be made on or after Oct. 26, according to the DEC release.

cmiller@timesreview.com

08/08/14 10:00am
08/08/2014 10:00 AM
An application by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a four-car parking lot at the end of Beach Way, a private road in Baiting Hollow, has prompted nearby homeowners to sue the state agency. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An application by the Department of Environmental Conservation for a four-car parking lot at the end of Beach Way, a private road in Baiting Hollow, has prompted nearby homeowners to sue the state agency. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In a town awash with thousands of parking spaces, an application for another four might not seem like that big of a deal.

But tucked away on the far side of a private road in Baiting Hollow, abutting land the New York State Department of State has labeled “irreplaceable,” four parking spaces the state Department of Environmental Conservation permitted itself last year are creating quite a stir.

A group of Baiting Hollow homeowners have taken the DEC to court over the proposed spaces, claiming the state regulatory authority went out of bounds in granting itself a tidal wetlands permit for the spots “in secret — free from any public awareness and scrutiny,” according to court filings.

“If I wanted to build on that DEC piece of property, they would make me go through a full environmental review of the impacts,” said Frank Isler, the Riverhead attorney representing the Baiting Hollow Beach Association. “It’s surprising to us that they didn’t do that themselves. And our argument is that they can’t benefit from mishandling a procedure incorrectly.”

Last summer, the DEC filed for — and approved — four parking spaces in a .2-acre lot at the west end of Beach Way, a private road at the end of Edwards Avenue overlooking the Long Island Sound. The application calls for the removal of approximately 100 cubic yards of sand to be replaced with pervious material to facilitate car use. In addition, it proposes removing an existing gate on the site and installing guard rails along the perimeter of the parking area.

The .2-acre site abuts a larger, 81-acre parcel also owned by the DEC — land the agency says it wants to open to the public. In 2005, those lands, called the Baiting Hollow Wetlands and Beach, were added to a list of “significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats” by New York State’s Department of State.

“Any activity that would disturb or eliminate marsh, natural beach, and duneland plant communities would result in a loss of valuable wildlife species,” the designation states. The 81-acre property — one of about 250 such areas statewide — is considered “an important nesting site” for the endangered piping plover and the threatened least tern, according to the DOS.

But members of the Baiting Hollow Beach Association argue that the DEC’s application ignored that designation. And because the application was deemed to have a minor impact on the environment, notification otherwise required was not given, and neighbors were unaware of the permit until weeks after it was filed. One homeowner, Roger Schilling, said he heard about the permit in passing as he tried to obtain repair permits for his own property.

But by then, it was too late to challenge the DEC’s permit, as a 30-day window had already passed by the time homeowners filed suit.

“As soon as we heard about it, we brought [the legal challenge,]” Mr. Isler said.

Mr. Schilling said the project would require some “major dune bulldozing” to clear land for the parking spaces.

“Part of that dune is what saves the back row of houses [on Beach Way] from flooding,” he said. “That’s why this is one of the things that infuriates us, by calling it a minor project. It’s a major project.”

08/06/14 2:04pm
08/06/2014 2:04 PM

EPCAL_signRiverhead Town is now one step closer to being able to sell individual lots at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The town has received a draft environmental impact study for its EPCAL reuse plan — a plan that seeks to subdivide the former Navy site into 50 lots and recommends a mix of business, residential and light industrial uses on about 600 acres of town-owned land.

The reuse plan is an attempt to replace the jobs that were lost when Grumman Corporation vacated the site in the mid-1990s.

The town paid nearly $450,000 for the study in 2011, and earlier this year approved over $160,000 in additional expenses attributed largely to negotiations with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Town Board plans to hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow to schedule a Sept. 3 public hearing at 7 p.m. on the DEIS, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

He expects the study to become finalized by the end of the year and for the 50-lot industrial subdivision the town is proposing at EPCAL to be approved by the town Planning Board shortly after.

The town cannot sell individual lots at EPCAL until they are formally subdivided. It also will need state Department of Environmental Conservation approval for its EPCAL reuse plan, since part of it is located within the boundaries of the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, which places restrictions on development near the Peconic River, Mr. Walter said.

05/17/14 12:00pm
05/17/2014 12:00 PM
Bailie Beach in Mattituck (Credit: Carrie Miller File)

Bailie Beach in Mattituck (Credit: Carrie Miller File)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hosting a number of meetings to better understand groundwater resource needs in Nassau and Suffolk counties, in hopes of developing a wastewater management plan for the region.

On Monday, state and local officials, environmental and business leaders and researchers will be on hand discuss issues related to wastewater, septic systems and possible future solutions.

The meeting will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center, according to a statement from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Representatives from the DEC , Stony Brook University, the Town of Southampton, Environmental Facilities Corporation and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery are expected to speak.

The plan’s goal will be to increase resiliency against future storms, improve water quality and provide additional protections for Long Island’s groundwater resources, according to the release.

On May 28, discussion will be opened up to the public for an evening meeting. The public can also submit written comments at Monday’s meetings or by emailing liwaterquality@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Information on where the May 28 meeting will be held has not yet been released.

A final meeting scheduled for June will present recommendations on how to address wastewater and septic problems to Mr. Cuomo, the release states.

05/03/14 10:00am
05/03/2014 10:00 AM
These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April 2013. (Credit: DEC courtesy, file)

These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April 2013. (Credit: DEC courtesy, file)

Perhaps hoping to curb a recent trend of abandoning alligators on Long Island, authorities announced this week a first-ever “amnesty day” in Suffolk County for those who illegally own exotic animals.

“People who are in possession of these animals unlawfully can turn them in to us without fear of prosecution,” said Suffolk SPCA chief Roy Gross, whose group is hosting the May 10 event with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S Department of Agriculture. “No one will be asked to give their name.”

The announcement comes about a year after state Department of Environmental Conservation officers found five alligators in the Peconic River — one of which they shot —  and several others in areas elsewhere on Long Island.

In 2012, authorities recovered nine alligators over a span of just a few weeks in Suffolk County alone.

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center at 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville.

Read more on alligators being found in Suffolk County.

Trained handlers will be on hand to accept the animals  from the public, officials said.

“The purpose of this effort is to get these illegally possessed animals into a controlled environment where they can be cared for properly,” Mr. Gross said.

mwhite@timesreview.com

04/25/14 8:00am
04/25/2014 8:00 AM
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Stakeholders on both sides of a life-or-death debate met in Albany last Thursday to discuss the future of the mute swan, an invasive species on the cusp of widespread population growth in New York.

There are approximately 2,200 mute swans in the state, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which are expected to reproduce at a rate of 13 to 20 percent annually.  (more…)