02/28/14 2:14pm
02/28/2014 2:14 PM
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)

After getting pushback from lawmakers and thousands of residents, state environmental officials are considering major changes to a management plan that called for the eradication of New York’s wild mute swan population by 2025.

Included in those changes is a plan to achieve newly revised population goals that are unique to various areas of the state, and to achieve those goals through “non lethal means,” state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.

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01/19/14 1:00pm
01/19/2014 1:00 PM

VERA CHINESE FILE PHOTO | The DEC aims to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025.

Citing “aggressive behavior towards people” and “destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation,” the state Department of Environment Conservation has released a new plan to kill or capture all wild mute swans by 2025.

The DEC’s Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State aims to reduce the population of mute swans, which has grown considerably in recent years on Long Island.

A non-native and invasive species, the mute swan was brought to North America from Eurasia in the late 1800s. By 1993, New York’s mute swan population had increased to about 2,000. The population peaked at more than 2,800 birds in 2002 and is currently estimated at about 2,200 birds statewide, according to DEC statistics.

Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley currently have the largest numbers of mute swans, but a rapidly increasing population has taken hold in the Lake Ontario region, the DEC stated.

The birds cause a variety of problems, including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of native plants, displacement of local wildlife, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation, according to the DEC.

To help eliminate the problems, the organization recently proposed listing mute swans as a “prohibited species” under new Invasive Species regulations. This would prohibit the sale, importation, transport or introduction of this species in New York.

Ultimately, the DEC is looking to eliminate all free-ranging mute swans from New York by 2025. However, people that choose to keep the birds as pets may do so under the proposal.

“Wildlife management can present challenges in trying to balance populations, hunting opportunities and environmental impacts,” DEC commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release.  “These plans will guide the management of these species for the next 10 years.”

The DEC is accepting comments on the mute swan plan through Feb. 21. Mail your thoughts to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or e-mail your comments.

cmurray@timesreview.com 

11/13/13 5:30pm
11/13/2013 5:30 PM

One of the four local men citied by the Department of Environmental Conservation for illegally taking and pursuing wildlife and posting the evidence online is speaking out after he says officers have exaggerated the circumstances behind the incidents.

George Salzmann

George Salzmann

Eighteen-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton said he and his friends were trying to help the two deer they found while driving home from a friend’s house in Wading River about 2 a.m. on Oct. 27.

The first deer was found trapped inside a fence near Grumman Memorial Park when Mr. Salzmann said he found and quickly released the animal. The other, he said, was found running parallel to the car on Hulse Landing Road with a bloody face.

Noticing the deer’s wound, Mr. Salzmann said they captured the animal to clean up its face. He chose not to call DEC to handle the situation because of the late hour, he said.

His account differs from the DEC statement that said the men trapped and wrangled the deer between the vehicle and the fence in order to hop out and catch it.

“They said we chased down the deer and cornered into the fence which is false,” Mr. Salzmann said to the Riverhead News-Review in a phone interview Wednesday. “We pulled one of the deer out and we were trying to help it. I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt.”

The animals were released unharmed, according to DEC.

Officials said that on Halloween, they were forwarded pictures from the two separate incidents, one of which included one of the men drinking a Natural Ice beer. The following day, Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were approached by Environmental Conservation Officers at Bean & Bagel, a bagel shop on Route 25 in Calverton.

While remorseful for taking photos with alcohol, Mr. Salzmann believes the group did the right thing for the deer.

“The photo that was taken with the beer was probably not the best photo, but the photo of us holding it and smiling – I don’t see any harm in that,” Mr. Salzmann said. “We didn’t have to bring it inside. It was just bleeding and we figured we’d clean it up and give it water.”

Mr. Salzmann said he and his friends were not intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

The four men – ranging from ages 18 to 20 – were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann, seen holding the deer in both photos, was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Mr. Salzmann said that the untagged deer found on his property was the fault of Riverhead Police, and plans to fight that ticket.

“Riverhead Police Department was supposed to issue me a tag for a dead deer that was on the side of the road and that I took to my home, they said that the Ridge officer – where DEC is located – was unavailable, and the cop followed me home so I wouldn’t get in trouble from the DEC,” Mr. Salzmann said. “For that ticket, I blame the police department for not doing their job and not making out a deer report and issuing me a tag.”

Conor Lingerfelt, 19, of Jamesport, was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Joseph Sacchitello, 20, of Riverhead, and Anthony Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once. DEC officials said one of the photos has all four individuals with one stressed deer.

“Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully. “Wildlife can be dangerous and unpredictable, and DEC’s environmental conservation offices deserve recognition for their successful pursuit of this case.”

The four men are due in Riverhead justice court on Nov. 27. Each offense carries a $250 fine.

Mr. Salzmann said there is no danger of him losing his hunting license.

11/13/13 2:23pm
Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

After posting pictures of themselves on Instagram with a pair of live deer they caught, four local young men who were later caught by Department of Environmental Conservation officers in Calverton face citations for illegally taking and pursuing wildlife.

DEC officials said they were tipped off on Halloween when someone sent the two pictures to them, which were posted on the social media photo sharing website. The next day, the four men were spotted at a local business in Calverton, however it was not immediately clear at which establishment they were seen.

The four men – ranging from ages 18 to 20 – were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said 18-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton, seen holding the deer in both photos, was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Conor Lingerfelt, 19, of Jamesport, was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Joseph Sacchitello, 20, of Riverhead, and Anthony Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once. DEC officials said one of the photos has all four individuals with one stressed deer.

According to DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo, one deer had been trapped inside a fence when Mr. Salzmann and Mr. Lingerfelt wrangled it. The other, she said, was tracked down on Hulse Landing Road in Wading River by the four men. She said as they drove their vehicle parallel to the deer alongside deer fence on the road, they cut off the deer and trapped it between the vehicle and the fence. They were then able to hop out and catch it.

Both deer were apparently brought back to Infantolino’s house in Wading River. Ms. Montalvo said both deer involved in the incidents were released unharmed.

“The pursuit and capture of native wildlife is not tolerated in New York State,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully. “Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions. Wildlife can be dangerous and unpredictable, and DEC’s environmental conservation offices deserve recognition for their successful pursuit of this case.”

The four men are due in Riverhead justice court on Nov. 27. Each offense carries a $250 fine.

Individuals who spot illegal activities are encouraged to call DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police at (631) 444-0250 during business hours, and 1-877-457-5680 or 1-800-TIPP-DEC at all other times to report suspected illegal activities.

Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

Instagram photo courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation

07/26/13 8:00am
07/26/2013 8:00 AM

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The Peconic Baykeeper is taking legal action against the state parks department and Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Peconic Baykeeper is taking legal action against the state parks department and Department of Environmental Conservation, saying they haven’t done enough to address sewage discharge pollution wreaking havoc on the bay waters they’re charged with protecting.

Last Tuesday, Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister announced his intent to sue the state parks department in federal court for failing to have sewage discharge permits for five state-operated facilities, including Wildwood State Park in Wading River. The advocacy group also filed a separate suit in state court against the state DEC May 30.

The discharge permit program is intended to control water pollutants — like nitrogen, which feeds bay-harming algal blooms — by regulating sources of pollutant discharge into U.S. waters, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency website.

“Wildwood on a hot July day, those parking lots are going to be filled,” Mr. McAllister said. “Some 1,000 toilet flushes a day are going into groundwater, going to bays.”

He said that Wildwood and other state parks are examples of areas where “wastewater discharge is not being adequately addressed, by virtue of the absence of any kind of permits.”

Permits became mandatory following the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972, which requires facilities discharging pollutants into U.S. waters to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

In New York, the state DEC regulates permits and discharging pollutants without a permit is illegal, according to the EPA website.

Mr. McAllister said SUNY/Stony Brook’s Southampton campus — run by the state and home to the East End’s premier water quality research program — also lacks the required permit.

“They are here to identify and save the bays, when their own campus is not committed to clean water from wastewater discharges,” he said.

He added that the water quality researchers do not deserve the blame but SUNY/Stony Brook Southampton should be setting the standard for clean water.

“If they are the preeminent marine scientists and research center on protecting our waters, they have to walk the walk,” he said.

A Stony Brook spokesperson declined comment for this story.

In a press release, Peconic Baykeeper attorney Reed Super said the “DEC has failed to comply with the legal mandates of the Clean Water Act and state law, both of which require strict permit limits on the discharge of nitrogen, in order to protect water quality.”

The lawsuit filed in May charges that the state DEC failed to enforce permitting and regulation of the state parks, the Southampton campus and more than 1,300 sewage treatment plants and facilities. Mr. McAllister said these facilities all lack NPDES permits and some of their septic systems do not meet current wastewater standards.

Several of these facilities are on the North Fork, including the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Splish Splash Water Park, Southold Junior-Senior High School and Southold Town Hall, according to a petition Peconic Baykeeper sent to the state DEC.

“The DEC is the regulator for wastewater discharges,” Mr. McAllister said. “Our argument is there are inadequate regulations and deficient enforcement to provide for surface water protection.”

State DEC officials said that while they do not comment on pending litigation, the “DEC has a long history in working to address water quality on Long Island, recognizing the region’s reliance on a primary aquifer and the importance of high quality surface water to the local population. To achieve this goal, DEC has established rigorous restrictions on landfills, identified and protected special groundwater protection areas, and is in the process of implementing a pollution prevention strategy to address pesticides.”

By going after bigger state facilities, Mr. McAllister said, he hopes to drive the discussion toward widespread regulatory reform of wastewater discharges, particularly nitrogen.

Currently the nitrogen standard for drinking water protection is 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter, or ten parts per million. Mr. McAllister said he would like to see regulations change to the ecological standard, .45 milligrams of nitrogen per liter, commonly agreed upon by experts.

“The state of New York and Suffolk County have been dragging their feet and ignoring the fact that they need to refine these standards to protect our bays,” Mr. McAllister said. “I think our region and Suffolk County in general does not recognize the urgency of this condition.”

Federal law requires 90 days advance notice of any intent to sue. The suit against the parks department cannot be filed before October, Mr. Super said.

The actions Peconic Baykeeper has filed against the state DEC and parks department are being undertaken in partnership with Long Island Soundkeeper, based in Connecticut.

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/19/13 12:00pm
07/19/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue.

Residents of the Riverhaven manufactured home park on Hubbard Avenue say noise from the adjacent Gershow Recycling business is shaking their homes.

Seeking some peace, residents there met with Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy last Thursday in the meeting room of Riverwoods mobile home park in Riverside to voice their complaints. (Both parks are owned by Kingsley Management Corp. of Utah.)

“The ground vibrates over there,” said John Peck, who manages both parks. “I know it does because I was standing out there and I felt it. It was like an earthquake. It’s shaking the homes off their foundations. It’s actually causing things to fall off their walls. It’s not right. These people were here first.”

“I hear that big bang constantly,” said Richard Weiss, who lives on First Street in the park. “I live in a new home, it’s five years old, and it shakes the house.”

An attorney for Gershow said the company is aware of the complaints and is taking steps to address the noise problems.

Gershow Recycling, which is based in Medford and has a number of sites on Long Island, bought the former Fred J. Gallo Used Auto Parts site on Hubbard Avenue in 2012 to continue to operate an “end of life vehicle recycling facility,” as Gershow termed it on a state Department of Environmental Conservation application.

But nearby residents say there was never any noise when Gallo owned the site, whereas, since Gershow has taken over, they now hear loud booming sounds all the time.

In August 2012, the Riverhead Town planning department determined that Gershow’s plan to take over the Gallo site was “de minimus,” meaning it did not require a site plan application or a site plan amendment from the Planning Board.

The state DEC required Gershow to get a freshwater wetland permit, build a retaining wall and regrade the site to prevent rainwater runoff from going into Saw Mill Creek.

Peter Danowski, a Gershow attorney, said in an interview Tuesday that Gershow has already taken a step toward reducing the noise. The company had been using a crane with metal treads, which made a lot of noise on the concrete ground, and has just spend $367,000 for a new crane with rubber treads, Mr. Danowski said.

Greshow also plans to place metal containers along the property line to buffer the noise, Mr. Danowski said. If the containers don’t work, the company will try other solutions until it finds something that does work, he assured.

“We start with a couple of containers near a neighbor, and then talk to that neighbor and see if stopped the noise,” Mr. Danowski said.

Mr. Dunleavy told the Riverhaven residents that as long as Gershow is following town code, “there’s nothing we can do about this,” other than trying to level with them and have both sides agree to be good neighbors.

Recently released campaign finance disclosure filings show that both Mr. Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio received campaign contributions from Gershow’s owners.

Mr. Dunleavy said he plans to work with Gershow to resolve the noise problem for residents.

Gershow has received complaints about noise and shaking from neighbors of its Medford location as well, according to news reports from over 30 years ago.

In the late 1980s, residents near a Gershow facility in Medford said it caused their homes to shake, created noxious fumes and periodically “exploded” with a sound resembling an airplane crash, according to a Newsday article at the time.

Gershow later reached an out-of-court settlement with those residents, who had gone to state Supreme Court to stop the operation.

tgannon@timesreview.com