06/28/14 10:00am
06/28/2014 10:00 AM
(Credit: The Nature Conservancy)

This map uses pie charts to break down the various sources and levels of nitrogen pollution found in the Peconic Estuary from Calverton to Montauk and Orient. Click on map to enlarge. (Credit: The Nature Conservancy)

The Nature Conservancy released a report last week on the various ways nitrogen finds its way from the air and land and into surface waters throughout the Peconic Estuary.

The report’s data shows that causes of nitrogen pollution vary significantly across the East End.

(more…)

06/20/14 5:00pm
06/20/2014 5:00 PM
Nature Conservancy researchers found causes of nitrogen pollution vary significantly across the North Fork.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Nature Conservancy environmental group on Thursday released a report that details the sources of nitrogen pollution researchers say are reaching surface waters throughout the Peconic Estuary.

The data presented in the report shows causes of nitrogen pollution vary significantly throughout the East End. (more…)

05/29/14 8:00am
05/29/2014 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

New construction and any big renovation projects on Long Island would need to incorporate modern waste treatment systems to better filter nitrogen and keep it from reaching ground and surface waters.

Registered pesticides that appear in groundwater in “multiple clusters” would be “prohibit[ed] for use.”

And, starting in 2017, no one would be allowed to repair cesspools in certain “priority areas” of Nassau or Suffolk counties. Those people would instead have to install denitrification systems.  (more…)

05/23/14 3:05pm
05/23/2014 3:05 PM
Waterfront homes in Jamesport along the bay. (Credit: Barbarellen Koch, file.)

Waterfront homes in Jamesport along the bay. (Credit: Barbarellen Koch, file.)

New construction and any big renovation projects on Long Island would need modern waste treatment systems installed to better filter nitrogen from reaching ground and surface waters.

Registered pesticides that appear in groundwater in “multiple clusters” would be “prohibit[ed] for use.”

And, starting in 2017, no one would be allowed to repair cesspools in certain “priority areas,” of Nassau or Suffolk Counties. Those people would instead have to install denitrification systems.

These are just a few of the restrictions outlined in a new water quality control measure touted by state Assemblymen Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), during a conference put on by Long Island Clean Water Partnership advocacy groups in Islandia Thursday. (more…)

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.

04/13/14 6:00am
04/13/2014 6:00 AM
A sandbar at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A sandbar at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

I must admit I was surprised at Bill Toedter’s response to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s commitment to address the damage to the quality of our waters that excess nutrient loading is causing. It is a complex issue and we should be glad to have a politician brave enough to take action.  (more…)

03/22/14 9:00am
03/22/2014 9:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

This is the time for action. Recently, I announced the single most important initiative of my administration and what should be the single most important goal for all Long Islanders: curbing decades of nitrogen pollution we have been inflicting on our ground and surface waters here in Suffolk County.  (more…)

01/23/14 11:00am
01/23/2014 11:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay.

Environmentalists rallied in Albany last week to support a bill that would establish and implement a water quality protection plan aimed at reducing nitrogen levels in ground and surface waters across Long Island.

One major component of the legislation would require all septic systems near coastlines or public water sources to be replaced by more high-tech nitrogen-reducing systems. But that part of the bill is generating skepticism tied to a lack of tested technology and to the potential costs for governments and property owners alike.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the legislation, if enacted, could “make the largest contribution to Long Island’s environment of any piece of legislation ever written.”

But it’s still early in the process.

State lawmakers refer to the measure, which is still in committee, as a “study bill,” calling it simply a starting point for discussion.

Read the bill here

Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D- Lindenhurst) proposed the legislation in August, with state Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) proposing a matching bill in the Senate soon after. They caution that the bill needs more work, but both hope to get it passed during this legislative session and said a final draft is expected in April.

The bill aims to curb the amount of nitrogen — which comes from human and animal waste, fertilizers and other sources — reaching area bays and Long Island Sound, feeding algal booms that deprive waters of their oxygen.

It also calls for creation of a Long Island Water Quality Commission that would establish and then oversee implementation of an island-wide water protection plan.

As proposed, the 11-member commission would include two representatives from the governor’s office, one representative each from the Senate and the Assembly, both county executives, one representative from each county legislature and a single member representing all Long Island town and village governments.

It would also include a technical advisory member to represent county health and planning departments and a citizen’s advisory representative such as an environmental or industry advocate. With a protection plan in place, local governments would have to adopt and amend land use, zoning and engineering specifications to adhere to the plan, according to the bill.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), whose district spans the North Fork, and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter each flagged that component of the proposal as something that wrests zoning control from local officials.

They also said such a commission would direct too much power away from elected leaders.

“It would kind of give the state zoning authority,” Mr. Krupski said. “You need to have elected officials on [the commission] really, being that they are the ones on the front lines making decisions based on someone having elected them to that positions.”

“What they are asking us to do is abdicate our zoning authority, give 100 percent of our zoning authority to what is mostly an unelected group of individuals,” Mr. Walter said. “I could not support the legislation as it is written.”

Mr. Walter said while he is in favor of a plan to improve water quality, he believes affected towns should be broadly represented. That’s the case with the five-member Central Pine Barrens Commission, which includes the supervisors of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton, as well as the county executive.

The water protection plan would affect too many people on Long Island and they need proper representation, he said.

Mr. LaValle, who wrote and sponsored the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act, said state officials are taking those concerns into consideration and plan to invite local government officials to the table to voice their concerns.

“My approach is to be inclusive and to make sure that people’s points of view are represented,” Mr. LaValle said. “Everyone can’t get everything they want, but it should represent the stakeholders’ major concerns.”

As for curbing nitrogen flow into water, the bill calls for the removal of existing commercial and residential septic systems, which would be replaced by nitrogen-reducing systems. The mandate would apply to all such “on-site” septic systems within 1,000 feet of a coastline or public supply well.

“We have 17 [public] supply wells in Riverhead and we’re surrounded by water,” Mr. Walter said, “Thousands of homeowners could be impacted.”

Currently, conventional underground on-site septic systems release nitrates into groundwater at a rate of 35 to 50 milligrams per liter, said Bob DeLuca of Group for the East End, an environmental advocacy group working with lawmakers on the bill. The county health department’s standard for drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter and, according to Christopher Gobler, marine researcher for Stony Brook University, aquatic life is affected by levels of 0.5 milligrams per liter or higher.

Any new nitrogen-reducing system would have to reduce that output by half, Mr. DeLuca said, keeping in line with the National Sanitary Foundation’s standard, which “speaks to a 50 percent reduction.” The nonprofit foundation develops public health standards that help protect the world’s water; and certifies that emerging de-nitrifying systems and technology meet those specific standards, according to its website.

“It is not a bill that says everybody in Suffolk County has to rip up their backyards and put in a system next week,” said Mr. DeLuca. “There are places where they will need advanced nitrogen treatment and where they will not.”

Mr. DeLuca, Mr. Amper and other environmentalists traveled to Albany last Tuesday hoping to gain support for the bill — which the two state lawmakers stressed could look very different in its final draft, given all the concerns.

Engineering experts argue that the proposed legislation is not in line with available sewage treatment technology, as no de-nitrification system is currently approved by the Suffolk County health department for use on a consumer level.

“There’s no technology to do what they are asking for,” said professional engineer Joseph Fischetti of Southold. “The problem all comes down to individual sub-surface sanitation and there is nothing out here that takes nitrogen out of individual sub-surface sewer systems. So we’re not there yet.”

Mr. DeLuca said health department engineers are currently testing available technology and are in the process of studying at least three systems.

Mr. Fischetti also spoke to the cost of such systems, which he said can range from $10,000 to $30,000 and higher. Such systems, he said, would require long-term maintenance, some seasonally, which would add to those costs.

“This a very complicated problem and they’re going to put legislation out there that’s going to be costing people tens of thousands of dollars,” Mr. Fischetti said. “It affects almost everybody; look at a map and draw a line 1,000 feet from the coast. You have to start talking about how much this is going to cost.”

Mr. Sweeney said the protection plan would incorporate identifiable means of paying for all the septic system upgrades, without putting all of the cost on ratepayers or property owners.

“We recognize it simply isn’t realistic to turn to homeowners and say, ‘This is all your problem and now you have to fix it at your expense,’ I don’t think that could happen, much less that it would happen,” Mr. Sweeney said.

Mr. Krupski, a former member of Southold Town’s Board of Trustees, which is tasked with protecting the town’s water sources, applauded the effort to move forward on improving water quality.

But, he added, the bill as proposed seemed to outline quite an expensive endeavor for no guaranteed payoff.

“Who is going to do the work? And who going to pay for it?” Mr. Krupski asked, adding that nitrogen is not the only factor in water degradation. “Look at everything that goes down the drain. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and then say nitrogen was just one player with everything going into groundwater.”

“Everybody is interested in how this affects them, that’s natural,” Mr. Sweeney said. “We’re having those discussions and we could end up, who knows, in a very different place down the road from where we are right now on this issue.

“The main point was to get a discussion going and figure out what can reasonably be done,” he said, “and what we need to do to address the issue.”

cmiller@timesreview.com