12/05/13 12:00pm
12/05/2013 12:00 PM
JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

North Fork legislators are lobbying the chair of the state’s Environmental Conservation Committee to pass a bill that would have given local municipalities on the East End the authority to loosen some restrictions on deer hunting had it not been stalled in the lower house of the state Legislature last year.

In a letter addressed to state Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski — the initial author of the letter, which was written late last month — said “the overpopulation of white-tailed deer is a crisis which has plagued the East End of Long Island for many years, negatively impacting not only human health, but water quality, biodiversity, private property, the economy and the agricultural industry.”

The four-page letter — supported so far by Southold Town, the Village of Greenport and groups including the North Fork Environmental Council, North Fork Audubon Society and North Fork Deer Management Alliance — calls upon Mr. Sweeney to move the bill out of the committee it never left last year, so the entire Assembly can vote on it. The state Senate passed the bill, 59-2, in May.

Steven Liss, a legislative aide to Mr. Sweeney, said in a phone conversation that officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation — which regulates hunting in New York State — expressed concern about granting towns and villages the option to loosen state regulations. State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he recalled no such opposition while passing the bill last year. A DEC spokesperson said the authority does not comment on pending legislation.

Mr. Liss said that if the deer “crisis” is as severe as some say it is, measures more drastic than deregulating hunting laws will be needed to reduce the herd. He pointed to a plan which Southold Town will be implementing, made possible through a Long Island Farm Bureau grant, that involves hiring United States Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to use measures above and beyond state law <\h>— including baiting and hunting at night <\h>— to cut down drastically the number of deer in the area. Riverhead officials have expressed skepticism to this plan, however, noting that opening more opportunities to hunters would be more preferable than spending money to bring in hunters from outside the area.

“If we’re talking about opening up hunting opportunities, we support that,” Mr. Liss said. “But if we’re talking about culling the herd down to a manageable level, that’s a different conversation.”

The amendments to the state hunting law proposed by Assemblyman Fred Thiele last year would have given the five East End towns the ability to reduce bowhunting setbacks down to 150 feet, from the current state regulations of 500 feet. In addition, opening up a special firearms hunting season for the entire month of January was proposed; currently, only weekdays are allowed. These measures, as well as a couple of other changes offered by Mr. Thiele, were suggested in a deer management plan published by the DEC in October 2011.

In September, a forum hosted by the town on the topic of culling the herd brought out over 300 residents interested in the issue. Southold Supervisor Scott Russell called the problem of deer overpopulation a “public health crisis” at the time.

Because of opposition to reducing setbacks he says Mr. Sweeney has expressed, Mr. Thiele — who represents the South Fork and Shelter Island — said in a Tuesday interview that he plans submitting two bills related to deer management next month when the Assembly returns to Albany. One, he said, would expand the opportunity for localities statewide to reduce their setbacks and the other deals with all the other elements of the original bill.

While he sees no single solution to the deer problem in the immediate future, Mr. Thiele said it’s a step in the right direction.

“All we are trying to do is follow the deer management plan,” he said. “To use a bad pun, no silver bullet is going to solve this issue. But this is one way to work toward that. Every little bit counts.”

The letter to Mr. Sweeney, chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee since 2007, goes beyond the previously proposed amendments to state law, proposing the use of baits as well as trapping and humane euthanasia of deer.

“Every humane tool must be utilized to get our deer population down to reasonable levels as soon as possible,” the letter states.

While the future of the bill in the Assembly remains unclear, Mr. LaValle said he should have no problem passing the new bill through the state Senate next year.

12/05/13 8:00am

Property owners across the North Fork and beyond now have easy access to information concerning contaminated areas they may – or may not – have known existed in their neighborhoods.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has released information about 1,950 different locations across the state that have been investigated for possible environmental contamination, according to DEC officials.

Prior to the release, only two locations in Southold Town and the Riverhead area had been made public on the DEC’s website, the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton (more commonly known as EPCAL) and the Mattituck Airbase, said DEC spokesman Aphrodite Montalvo.

Though nine other locations have been added to the website, none of those locations have been newly discovered as contaminated sites, she said.

The information can be accessed on the DEC’s website along with about 2,500 sites that had already been made public and listed online, good for 4,450 total sites.

The newly added sites were mostly unknown to the public until now, local environmentalists said.

Jenn Hartnagel, a senior environmental advocate for the nonprofit Group for the East End, said she had been calling on the state agency “for some time” to release information about sites it has been investigating, in the interest of “transparency.”

“The earlier we know that their might be a problem, the more capable we are with dealing with them and making informed decisions,” she said.

Making the information readily accessible to the public gives people and local governments the opportunity to better understand these locations, and the extent of potentially hazardous conditions associated with groundwater and soil contamination, she said.

Prior to the release, information about these sites was only available by request, largely because the information is considered to be preliminary, incomplete, or not verified, Ms. Montalvo cautioned.

“Information about these sites can easily be misunderstood,” she said. “Their mere existence may unnecessarily raise concern about human exposures or environmental impacts before the sites are better characterized. Due to the nature of this information, significant conclusions or decisions should not be based solely upon the released summaries.”

The DEC released information about the sites in response to an increasing number of requests for property information, often associated with buying and selling property, according to an agency release announcing the measure. Below is information on sites, as provided online. The number matches the map above.

1) Calverton NWIRP 02 (EPCAL)

Grumman Boulevard, Calverton

As many as 230 gallons of fuel are recorded to have been spilled in the area. Groundwater contaminants found included fuel-type and chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs), believed to be from unreported spills of solvents used to clean the aircraft engines and fuel systems. Potable water that is contaminated above drinking water standards is currently being treated.

2) Riverhead Landfill

Youngs Avenue, Riverhead

This facility accepted municipal and industrial wastes, and construction and demolition debris. In 1980, spent industrial solvents of unknown composition were disposed at an on-site brush dump. The results of the most recent sampling, done in June of 1992, indicate that no substance of concern was found to be migrating from the landfill.

3) Riverhead Hortonsphere Site

West Main Street, Riverhead

Manufactured gas and stored natural gas. Began operations sometime prior to 1944 and was dismantled and removed in 1998. The site has been undeveloped since.

4) L.I. Horticultural Research Lab

3059 Sound Avenue, Riverhead

Application tanks containing pesticides were periodically washed and cleaned with rinse waters discharged into two leaching structures located on-site, which led to the contamination of subsurface soil.

A well survey was conducted in the area and no site-related contamination has been detected in the private wells. Contaminated surface soils were excavated and the remaining deep soils will be covered with an impervious liner to minimize further groundwater contamination.

5) Altaire Pharmaceuticals Inc.

311 West Lane, Aquebogue

This facility is being tracked because it once managed a type of hazardous waste.

It has not been determined whether any environmental releases have caused concern at this facility. As information for this site becomes available, it will be reviewed by the NYSDOH to determine if site contamination presents public health exposure concerns.

6) Graphics of Peconic Inc.

300 Pleasure Drive, Flanders

This facility is being tracked because it once managed a type of hazardous waste.

It has not been determined whether any environmental releases of concern have occurred at this facility. As information for this site becomes available, it will be reviewed by the NYSDOH to determine if site contamination presents public health exposure concerns.

7) Mattituck Airbase

Airway Drive (off New Suffolk Ave), Mattituck

Solvent rinses and wastewater from the facility were discharged to leaching pools until the pools were closed in 1979. Analyses of samples from the pools indicated elevated levels of copper, iron, nickel, zinc, lead, and cadmium. Contaminated soils were excavated and disposed of in 1997.

8) Southold Landfill

Cox Lane, north of Route 48, Cutchogue

This facility accepted municipal and domestic wastes, demolition, and landscaping debris, and cesspool and septic tank wastes from 1951 to Oct. 1993.

Based on the information contained in the reports, the wastes disposed at this site are not hazardous.

9) Cutchogue Freone Plume

Harbor Land and Oak Street, Cutchogue

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has discovered VOCs in private homeowner wells in the area. A later investigation found no sources of VOCs breaching groundwater standards and it was further determined that there is no longer a threat in this area.

10) Southold Acetylene Gas Production

370 Hobart Road, Southold

The acetylene manufacturing facility, which was operated by the Southold Lighting Company from 1906 to 1921, produced acetylene gas for the surrounding community. A number of organic and inorganic compounds are present at the site in surface soil.

11) Mitchell Property

115 Front Street, Greenport

Fourteen underground storage tanks containing gasoline, diesel fuel, fuel oil or waste oils had leaked, impacting soils in the vicinity of the tanks. Soils were later excavated and disposed of off-site. The site has since been remediated.

11/27/13 2:00pm
11/27/2013 2:00 PM
Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

DEC COURTESY INSTAGRAM PHOTO | This photo posted to Instagram was taken after the four men allegedly captured the deer, DEC officials said. One of the men later said the charges were exaggerated.

The four local men accused of snapping photos with a pair of deer they pursued and captured before putting them online earlier this month were each offered a reduced fine in exchange for community service Wednesday morning.

The plea deal came during an appearance in Riverhead Town court for the four defendants: 18-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton, 19-year-old Conor Lingerfelt of Jamesport, 20-year-old Joseph Sacchitello of Riverhead and 20-year-old  Anthony Infantolino of Wading River.

All were offered 20 hours of community service per ticket in exchange for reducing the maximum $250 fine to $100 per citation, prosecutors said in court. If they take the deal, the men would also have to pay a $75 surcharge.

The four were not required to plead in court, and would get the benefits of the deal if they complete the community service before their next court appearances in January. Court officials said one of the four might decide not to take the offer, and would have to pay the full fine if found guilty.

Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they were tipped off on Halloween when someone sent the two pictures to them, one of which apparently showed the four men smiling while one held the deer and another held a can of beer in the air.

The pictures had been posted on Instagram, a social media photo sharing website.

Instagram photo, courtesy Department Environmental Conservation

DEC COURTESY INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Authorities said the Mr. Salzmann and Mr. Lingerfelt caught the first deer while it was trapped inside a fence.

The other deer, officials said, was caught after it was chased down on Hulse Landing Road in Wading River and trapped between the four men’s vehicle and a fence. Authorities said both deer were apparently brought back to Mr. Infantolino’s house in Wading River and were later released unharmed.

The four men were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.

Mr. Lingerfelt was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Mr. Sacchitello and Mr. Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once.

DEC officials found the four men at Bean & Bagel on Route 25 in Calverton the next day and cited them for the incident.

“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 earlier this month.

But one of the men disputed the DEC’s claims. Mr. Salzmann told the News-Review that the four hadn’t trapped the deer, but instead were caring for it after they found it injured on the side of the road.

“I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt,” he said on Nov. 13. He said he regretted taking the photo with alcohol, but denied any of the four were intoxicated and said they did the right thing.

“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.

11/13/13 2:23pm
11/13/2013 2:23 PM
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

09/13/13 10:00am
09/13/2013 10:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Matt DeMaula is one of only a handful of North Fork lobstermen who still fish in Long Island Sound. Last week’s closure marked the first time Sound waters have been closed to lobster fishing for an extended period of time.

A third-generation lobsterman, Matt DeMaula has patrolled Long Island Sound alongside his father and uncles for more than two decades.

When he thinks back to his early days in the profession, the Mattituck native can recall some remarkable fall seasons.

“We used to call them ‘Septembers to remember,’ ” Mr. DeMaula said as he prepared to take the last of his lobster traps out of the Sound Friday. “We’ll never have another one of those.”

On Sunday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed Sound waters to lobster harvesting through Nov. 28, following a decision made last February by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates Southern New England area fisheries. The move marks the first time in the fishery’s history that the state is shutting down harvesting in the Sound.

The commission’s goal is to decrease lobster landings by 10 percent annually, helping to rebuild the Sound’s “depleted” lobster population, according to the DEC.

“They should have done it 20 years ago,” said lobsterman and Southold Town Trustee Jimmy King. He has been lobster fishing out of Mattituck Inlet for more than 50 years and is a former president of the Long Island Lobstermen’s Association.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Matt DeMaula (right) and his father, Anthony, had to pull all their lobster traps from Sound waters by this past Sunday. The two would normally be catching lobsters throughout September, weather permitting.

A combination of rising water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen, pesticide runoff and nitrogen loading proved too much for the crustaceans, causing an extreme die-off in 1999, said Emerson Hasbrouck, senior marine environmental issues educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

“[The lobster] simply haven’t recovered since,” Mr. King said.

Both Mr. Hasbrouck and Mr. King said the decline was driven by the environmental impacts rather than pressure from overfishing the Sound.

At the industry’s height in 1996, lobstermen landed 9.4 million pounds of lobster from Sound waters, equaling $32.9 million in revenue, according to state DEC data. That year the state DEC issued 932 resident commercial lobster permits.

By 2012, lobstermen caught just 269,000 pounds from Sound waters, generating $975,000, according to the same data. Only 334 resident commercial lobster permits were issued that year.

“There’s hardly anything being caught in the Sound anymore,” Mr. Hasbrouck said. “Most of the lobstermen have gotten out of it. They’ve either left fishing altogether or they are involved in other fisheries.”

Lobstermen once traveled to Orient from as far as City Island in the Bronx to fish for lobster in the Sound, Mr. Hasbrouck said. A couple of hundred men tended the many lobster boats, each of which was typically fishing about 1,000 pots.

“Today, you simply couldn’t make it as a lobsterman,” Mr. King said.

Only a handful of lobstermen continue the trade locally, including Mr. DeMaula and Phil Karlin, 72, of Riverhead. Each has had to diversify as lobster stocks have dwindled, catching finfish or conch to help make a living.

“I think what we’re afraid of is that once regulations like these come down, the restrictions will never be taken off — no matter how good things get again,” Mr. Karlin said. “I think that scares people. It does scare me in some respects.”

Mr. DeMaula said rather than a full closure of the Sound he would have preferred a management plan regulating the number of traps lobstermen can use, a strategy he says has worked in Maine.

A decade ago, Mr. DeMaula fished using 600 to 700 traps. This year, he said, he used only 125.

“That wasn’t a state-planned restriction, it was a self-imposed reduction,” he said. “The amount of [lobster] I was catching didn’t warrant me putting them all in. That’s a 10 percent reduction achieved without the closure.”

The closure dates, Sept. 8 to Nov. 28, were decided on by lobstermen from New York and Connecticut on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s lobster conservation management team.

It comes “during a time when water temperature is high and stressful to lobster” and “when lobster often experience a secondary molting event,” according to state DEC officials.

Mr. Karlin said the closure would not affect him, as most of his traps are out of Sound waters by early September.

However, Mr. DeMaula said he is losing several weeks of income. He would otherwise be fishing throughout September and would begin fishing again before Thanksgiving.

For him, the fall closure adds to the many regulations that make it difficult to make a living as a fisherman, he said.

“It’s just frustrating for me,” Mr. DeMaula said. “I wasn’t going to be a millionaire, but I got to make an honest living spending time on the water with family.

“None of the young guys want to deal with the regulations,” he said. “It’s a way of life that’s being lost.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

07/09/13 1:35pm
07/09/2013 1:35 PM

COURTESY DEC | The sea turtle rescued rescued off Orient Point.

A 5-foot-long leatherback sea turtle – the world’s largest living turtle and an endangered species – was rescued off Orient Point Saturday, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.

DEC officers on a routine patrol discovered the sea turtle trapped about two miles off of Orient Point in the “fast moving waters” of Plum Gut, according to a release. The turtle had become ensnared in the ropes of a lobster buoy, which were tangled around the animal’s lower torso, according to DEC officials.

The DEC officers were able to cut away buoy ropes, freeing the large turtle.

“Saving such a large animal required a great deal of skill and the officers involved in this rescue should be commended for using their knowledge and boatmanship to rescue this magnificent animal.” said DEC commissioner Joe Martens.

It is estimated that only 115,000 adult female leatherback sea turtles still exist, making them an endangered species at both state and federal levels according to the DEC.

The leatherback can grow up to 6-feet in length and weigh up to 1,300 pounds, earning its name for its leathery skin.

In the Atlantic, leatherback sea turtles are found regularly off the coast of New England, especially Massachusetts and the Gulf of Maine, and in Long Island waters, according to the release.

cmiller@timesreview.com

05/10/13 8:00am
05/10/2013 8:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | When the Riverhead Sewer District is able to upgrade its facility off Riverside Drive, the water being currently treated at the plant would then be pumped through a new, high-tech filtration system before reaching Peconic Bay.

With about eight months left before $20 million in upgrades must be completed at Riverhead’s sewer treatment plant off Riverside Drive, town officials readily admit they are well short of having enough money to fund the project. Town leaders have been preparing two pitches in hopes of acquiring enough funds through Suffolk County to pay for the upgrades.

The Riverhead Sewer District’s assessed rate for properties is currently just .455 percent, or about $35 a year on average for property owners, said sewer superintendent Michael Reichel. If the town can’t secure county money, assessed rates will have to jump by more than 522 percent, up to about $215 a year, to help pay for the necessary upgrades, which are being mandated by the state, town officials said.

No usage rate increases would be planned, Mr. Reichel said.

Riverhead’s main sewer treatment plant, near the county’s Indian Island Country Club, was built in 1937 and has been upgraded twice, most recently in 2000, which at the time helped the town meet state Department of Environmental Conservation requirements, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

“The DEC’s basic opinion [after the last upgrade] was that we wouldn’t have to upgrade the sewage treatment plant for the next 20 years,” Mr. Walter said. “But then the DEC found new technology.”

Mr. Reichel said the plant’s permit requires the town to complete an upgrade by January 2014 that will meet new water quality standards. (He noted, however, that construction and installation of the upgrades would take about two years.) The district plans to file for an extension on the required upgrades while additional funding is secured.

“We’re coming to a crunch here,” Mr. Reichel said.

The sewer district spent about $1 million drafting plans for the upgrade in 2009, town officials said. Those plans involve converting and repurposing a number of existing tanks at the plant as a way to contain costs.

The sewer district currently has about $2.1 million available through a state grant, $700,000 set aside in a nitrogen-mitigation fund and a remaining district fund balance that can be applied toward the upgrade, Mr. Reichel said, but that still leaves the district about $12 million short of what’s needed.

“[The planning] is done,” he said. “We know how big it’s going to be, we know the size of the pipes, we just don’t have the money.”

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Waste water being aerated in one of the two 750,000-gallon treatment tanks at the Riverhead Sewer District plant. With the required plant upgrades, the treated water would be pumped through a high-tech filtration system.

Town officials went before a Suffolk County Legislature sewer committee “multiple times,” Mr. Walter said, but got no closer to acquiring county funds for the project.

Last month, however, the county announced a competitive grant for municipalities to pay for sewer district upgrades.

About $30 million in funding will be available through the county’s Asset Stabilization Reserve Fund, which comes from a countywide quarter-cent sales tax used for land preservation and water quality. Submissions will be evaluated by the Suffolk County sewer infrastructure committee, headed by Legislator Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), and then presented to the Legislature for approval.

“This pool of funds gives Suffolk County a way to ‘grow’ sewers in Suffolk, which is both an environmental and economic development necessity,” Mr. Horsley said in a statement about the grant last month.

The applications are due by June 4, Mr. Reichel said.

“We’re looking to get as much as we can to go toward the upgrade,” he said.

Mr. Walter said the town will apply for the grant as early as next week.

Town officials also hope to tap into another source of income: the county’s sewer stabilization fund. That fund allows sewer districts in the county that raise sewer rates by more than 3 percent to get additional county funding to stave off further rate increases for customers, town officials said. Mr. Walter said he believes Riverhead is entitled to the fund, even though the local sewer district is run by the town without county involvement.

“We’ve also been very willing to hook up additional facilities,” Mr. Walter said, pointing out that the town’s water treatment plant already services the Suffolk County Center and jail complex in Riverside in Southampton Town.

Those buildings account for about 24 percent of the sewer district’s incoming flow, but pay only about 18 percent of the district’s revenue, Mr. Walter said.

“It’s a sweetheart deal for the county,” he said, hoping the arrangement would bode well for the town’s efforts to get funding.

The sewer treatment plant at the end of River Avenue currently uses biochemical methods to treat the wastewater generated by businesses and homes from downtown Riverhead to Route 58 to the Tanger Outlet Center.

The untreated water flows through a series of metal grates about a half-inch apart before it eventually moves into large 23-feet-deep tanks containing a layer of bacteria-laden “sludge” at the bottom. The water is mixed and aerated in the open-air tanks, Mr. Riechel said, as the “good” bacteria in the tanks devour the harmful germs.

A layer of clean water is left between the sludge at the base of the tank and a thin layer of scum at the top. A floating device called a “decanter” removes this clean water and pumps it into another set of equalization tanks, Mr. Reichel said. The water is then fed through a series of pipes to a bed of ultraviolet lights that kill remaining bacteria. The treated water, which is not safe to drink but is of a higher standard than required for river water, is pumped into the Peconic River.

The $20 million upgrade would install a finer metal strainer at the point where the water initially enters the property, Mr. Reichel said. Instead of being a half-inch apart, the metal grates will be 1/16 of an inch apart, allowing the sewer district to catch smaller physical waste faster.

The plant would use two currently vacant tanks as part of a system to irrigate Indian Island Golf Course with treated water. This would have the added benefit of allowing the county to save precious well water, which it now pulls from to irrigate the course, Mr. Reichel said.

Finally, the upgrade would also include a mesh that will be installed in the equalization tanks that would further filter the clean water produced by the plant, as well as more powerful UV lights that would kill anything in the water, even viruses, to help improve water quality before it is pumped out of the plant.

The town’s property also includes a scavenger treatment plant that takes in wastewater from private and commercial cesspools from across the East End and Brookhaven, Mr. Reichel said.

He said the town has not only readied a proposal for the county’s competitive grant, but has also tested out the planned irrigation system on a smaller but identical golf course built on the sewer district’s property to pilot the program.

Because of the irrigation component, the town was able to secure a $2.1 million grant from the state DEC to help fund the plant upgrades.

“If we don’t get the [rest of the] money, the board’s got to make a decision,” Mr. Reichel said. “But they have no decision to make but to go forward.”

Steve Wirth, owner of Digger O’Dell’s bar and restaurant in downtown Riverhead, said he pays a “sizable part” of his taxes to the sewer district because of his higher usage.

Mr. Wirth said the increases to the assessed value portion of the sewer tax would likely not affect his business as much as any usage rate changes would.

“If it’s necessary and it moves us in the right direction and gets us something better to the environment… you gotta do it,” Mr. Wirth said. “I’m not environmentalist but that’s worth it.”

psquire@timesreview.com

04/11/13 8:00am
04/11/2013 8:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, called for the banning of certain pesticides at the DEC’s Draft Long Island Pesticide Pollution Prevention Strategy hearing at Suffolk County Community College in Northampton last Wednesday night.

Environmental advocates, farmers, and elected officials stepped up to the microphone one by one last week, voicing support for or concern about the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft strategy to prevent future pesticide contamination of Long Island’s drinking water supplies.

Close to 100 people attended the hearing at Suffolk County Community College’s Eastern Campus in Riverhead last Wednesday night, April 3.

The new, 122-page proposed strategy calls for a technical review and advisory committee to review water quality data, so it can weigh factors such as human health risks and the availability of effective pesticide alternatives. The committee would provide the DEC with background information needed to support future regulatory action.

[Editorial: Is it time to rethink entire approach on pesticides?]

The draft strategy also calls for a working group of stakeholders to make sure those directly involved in pest management, pesticide use and water quality on Long Island are broadly represented.

Since 1996, 117 different pesticide-related chemicals have been detected in Long Island’s groundwater, according to the DEC.

By 1998 the agency began developing a plan to prevent further degradation of below-ground water supplies, culminating with the release of a draft plan in 2011 that included the possibility of a zero tolerance policy on certain pesticide uses. But the 2011 draft drew great concern from farmers, who said they would not be able to farm successfully under such harsh restrictions.

“The zero tolerance provision upset us greatly,” Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said in an interview about the 2011 proposed plan, which got scrapped. “We objected to it because in the draft document was the notion of zero tolerance. We had to interpret what zero meant. To me, zero means if they found something, it’s banned.”

Taking note of those concerns, in January, the DEC released its newest proposal to prevent future pesticide contamination, calling the new draft a “strategy.”

Environmental advocates at the hearing last week said the proposed strategy is a step back from the original plan proposed in 2011.

Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, said the strategy lacked specific goals for improving water quality over time.

Mr. DeLuca also asked for specific triggers, such as a certain number or level of pesticide detections, that would require the DEC to take regulatory action. He said the strategy also lacks a way to gauge how well it is working.

The new draft strategy “simply calls for more meetings and more planning” with too many “vagaries going forward,” he said.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, asked for a ban on three common pesticides — atrazine, metalaxyl, and imidacloprid — compounds she said are the most commonly found in Long Island’s groundwater.

Ms. Esposito asked the DEC to take responsibility for finding safer alternatives to common pesticides entering groundwater

But representatives of the East End’s agricultural community cautioned against implementing overly restrictive pesticide regulations, saying farmers need pesticides to remain economically viable.

Deborah Schmitt of Schmitt Family Farms in Riverhead voiced concern about a pesticides ban saying, “The last measure we use is pesticides.”

She said that before any pesticide is taken off the market alternatives must be identified, adding that the past few years have already been a struggle for Long Island’s farmers.

Ms. Schmitt also said a zero-tolerance policy for pesticides in groundwater “will put us out of business.” Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela agrees.

“Don’t start talking about banning things until the homework is done,” he said.

On the proposed banning of imidacloprid, for example, Mr. Gergela later said in an interview, “You have to be careful what you ask for.

“The alternative is far more toxic,” he said. “It’s product called dylox, and it is not as effective.”

Mr. Gergela also asked the DEC to assess risks presented by pesticides versus their benefit to society, adding that farming on Long Island is a $300 million industry.

“We need to work together,” he said. “We have to balance the issue.”

After the meeting, DEC deputy commissioner Eugene Leff said the agency would “seriously consider” creating water quality goals to ensure water quality changes are addressed over time.

Developing automatic triggers for regulatory action would be more difficult, he added. He believes a one-fits-all standard is not possible since different pesticides are harmful at different levels. The DEC is accepting public comments regarding the draft strategy until April 30. Comments can be submitted through email to: LongIslandStrategy@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by fax to 518-402-9024, or mailed to:

Scott Menrath, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Materials Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.

cmiller@timesreview.com