02/05/14 1:45pm
02/05/2014 1:45 PM
Paul Squire file 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.

Paul Squire file 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.

The Riverhead Town Board is planning to authorize the bonding of almost $9 million to cover part of a federally mandated $23.5 million upgrade to the Riverhead Sewer Plant at a special meeting Thursday morning. (more…)

12/23/13 5:00pm
12/23/2013 5:00 PM
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BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk County jail in Riverside.

Suffolk County has agreed to pay $2 million in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after the regulatory agency alleged that the county violated federal laws, failing to maintain nearly 70 underground tanks, including seven tanks on county land from Wading River to Southold.

According to a federal complaint, the county failed to provide adequate maintenance and monitoring of at least 68 underground storage tanks at 35 facilities across the county. Locally, the locations include three tanks at the County Department of Public Works highway maintenance yard in Southold, two tanks at Indian Island Park on Riverside Drive, one at the Shoreham power plant on North Country Road in Wading River, and one tank at the Suffolk County Jail on Center Drive in Riverside.

The storage tanks contain gasoline or waste oil “in generally large quantities” that could cause serious environmental damage if allowed to leak, according to the federal complaint. However the violations do not pose any immediate threat to the drinking water of county residents, officials said.

The alleged insufficiencies are in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which oversees management of non-hazardous solid wastes.

Each of the facilities operates within the boundaries of the sole source aquifer, which supplies at least half of the drinking water consumed in the area, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.

“Suffolk County’s residents are entitled to full protection of the laws and regulations designed to protect our water, our environment, and our citizens from risk of contamination from gasoline,” Ms. Lynch said.

The county has agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty to federal government, as well as fund a Supplemental Environmental Project in the amount of $1,500,000 which will be used “to acquire an interest in land, and to manage such land and any associated ecological resources, into perpetuity, to protect or enhance groundwater,” according to the settlement.

The county is also responsible for all costs in bringing facilities up to full compliance with federal requirements.

So far, Suffolk has spent about $2.9 million in measures to achieve compliance, including the replacement and upgrade of automated release detection systems, removal and closure of obsolete tanks, upgrade and renovation of fueling stations, adding inventory control equipment at fueling sites, conducting training and inspections, and also the cleanup and restoration of a fuel spill at one of Suffolk’s facilities.

The location of that facility was not immediately available.

The county is expected to spend an additional estimated $1.1 million to remain in compliance in the future, and is responsible for to submitting regular reports to the EPA demonstrating compliance, according to the release.

“Suffolk’s commitment to maintain compliance with those laws and to fund the acquisition of an interest in land that will be perpetually managed to protect and enhance groundwater provides a significant benefit to Suffolk’s residents,” Ms. Lynch said.

EPA administrator Judith A. Enck said, “as a result of this settlement, the health of people living in communities throughout Suffolk County will be better protected from the threat of petroleum contamination to ground water,”

The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period, and must be approved by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York before it takes effect.

cmiller@timesreview.com

12/13/13 10:00am
12/13/2013 10:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly-purchased fire hydrants may have to be sold for scrap if new federal regulations aren't changed or put on delay.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly purchased fire hydrants may have to be sold for scrap if new federal regulations aren’t changed or delayed.

Stockpiles of fire hydrants previously purchased by local water districts could soon be useless following new federal standards for lead used in infrastructure that provides drinking water.

Effective Jan. 4., the maximum amount of lead allowed for use in pipes distributing drinking water will change from 8 percent to .25 percent — a new standard enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new standard is a result of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act passed in January 2011, aimed at reducing the amount of lead in drinking water pipes and other plumbing fixtures to protect public health.

Although the act was passed nearly three years ago, the EPA only recently indicated fire hydrants would have to meet the new standard – because they can be used to provide drinking water in emergency situations – according to a release from Sen. Charles Schumer’s office.

Any hydrant installed on or after Jan. 4 would need to meet the new EPA standard, according to the guidelines.

“As soon as [the law] was passed we changed our policy to immediately order fittings that didn’t contain lead so three years from then we’d be ready – nobody had any idea they were going to include fire hydrants,” said Suffolk County Water Authority commissioner James Gaughran. “Fire hydrants are used for fire safety purposes.”

He said had the agency known three years ago, it would have prepared to comply. They agency was notified Oct. 22, when a summary of the law’s guidelines was released by the EPA, he said.

The SCWA services about 1.2 million people annually through more than 37,000 hydrants, and services most of Southold Town.

The agency’s existing stock of hydrants yet to be used numbers about 400 — valued at about $1,000 apiece — that, combined with associated fittings, totals about $450,000 of what could be unusable equipment, Mr. Gaughran said. If no exemptions are made, or delay is granted by the EPA, the existing stockpile would be sold at scrap value, he said.

“We’re certainly concerned about lead contamination getting to the drinking water, but it takes a long time,” Mr. Gaughran said. “Give the industry time to develop and manufacture the new hydrants, so that there is competition – so we don’t get rate shocked,” he said. “Who knows, they could double or triple in price.”

Riverhead Town Water District Superintendent Gary Pendzick said he only keeps about a dozen new hydrants in stock, each valued at about $1,500.

“For us it’s not that much of a consequence,” Mr. Pendzick said, adding that he hopes to be able to order equipment to retrofit the hydrants he currently has in stock.

Problem is, the supply industry hasn’t had the time to manufacture parts that meet the new EPA standard, he said.

“We called to get pricing and our supplies said they are not making retrofit kits yet,” Mr. Pendzick said.
They are not even making the hydrants yet.

At a press conference Monday, Mr. Schumer called on the EPA to exempt existing stocks of fire hydrants purchased before it released the guidelines in October, which he says will save water districts thousands of dollars.

On Dec. 2, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would add fire hydrants to the list of devices exempt from the new lead standards – which includes toilets and shower parts. Action from the Senate and presidential approval would still be needed to fix the problem for local water districts.

Mr. Gaughran, who called the problem “just another example of government bureaucracy out of control,” said the agency replaces about 200 of its roughly 3,700 hydrants each year – many of which become damaged in winter storms and car accidents, he said.

The Riverhead Water District replaces about a dozen of its 2,000 hydrants each year, Mr. Pendzick said.

While lead is rarely found in source water, it can enter tap water through the corrosion of plumbing materials, according to the EPA.

Exposure to lead can affect nearly every system in the body, and exposure above levels of 15 parts per billion can cause  delays in physical and mental development in babies and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

cmiller@timesreview.com

10/02/13 10:00am
10/02/2013 10:00 AM
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Reeves Bay watershed residents now have an opportunity to earn cash toward landscaping while helping preserve nearby waters.

The Peconic Estuary Program announced Tuesday a new rewards program designed to help educate residents and reduce pollutants from entering bay waters.

The pilot program is designed after successful programs in Maryland and other states, said Jennifer Skilbred, education and outreach coordinator for the program.

About 1,200 property owners in the Flanders area are eligible to receive up to $500 each to build rain gardens or conservation landscaping on their property using native plants. The total reward depends on which project they pursue, and landscaping must be a minimum of 50 square feet, according to the program.

Homeowners can also install 50 gallon (or more) rain barrels, designed to catch rainwater to be used to water plants when needed.

The projects are designed to reduce storm waters from entering the nearby estuary, Ms. Skilbred said. Participating homeowners are also asked to avoid using pesticides and fertilizers.

A total of $50,000 in federal funding has been secured for the program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s a first come, first serve basis,” Ms. Skilbred said. “The more homeowners we get involved the better.”

Program officials are working on developing a demonstration for the property of the Big Duck in Flanders, program officials said. If successful, the project will expansd to other areas across the East End.

For more information on the rewards program visit www.PeconicEstuaryRorgram.com.

Or, contact Jennifer Skilbred at jskilbred@eastendenvironment.org.

cmiller@timesreview.com


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