05/07/15 9:58am
05/07/2015 9:58 AM
Meetinghouse Creek on Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Meetinghouse Creek on Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials have closed two Riverhead water bodies to shellfishing after finding dangerous levels of marine biotoxins in shellfish and carnivorous gastropods, such as conchs and moon snails, which feed on shellfish. (more…)

05/01/15 8:00am
05/01/2015 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Southold trustee and bayman Jim King harvests oysters and clams in Mattituck Inlet last year.

Southold trustee and bayman Jim King harvests oysters and clams in Mattituck Inlet last year. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

The East End’s baymen — at least what’s left of them — are getting a hand from local governments, which are trying to open up shellfish beds that were designated as polluted by the state but could actually be quite clean.

Due to a state regulatory agency that’s strapped for time and money, a new agreement from the Suffolk County Legislature and the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee will set up standard practices for the county and East End towns to test their own water under the state’s strict guidelines. (more…)

03/30/15 2:59pm
03/30/2015 2:59 PM
Gary Joyce of Aquebogue (left) and Ed Densieski of Riverhead sort through a catch. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

Gary Joyce of Aquebogue (left) and Ed Densieski of Riverhead sort through a catch. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

There is a silver lining to the prolonged winter for local fishermen and seafood lovers: Bay scallop season has been extended an extra month to help area fishermen recoup losses contributed to the brutally cold weather.

(more…)

03/11/15 12:28pm
03/11/2015 12:28 PM
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

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

A newly revised state Department of Environmental Conservation plan to deal with mute swan populations in the state would focus on non-lethal management of their numbers on Long Island, only calling for lethal methods as a “last resort.”

That’s still too often for some, including state Senator Ken LaValle.  (more…)

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.”