07/07/14 8:00am
07/07/2014 8:00 AM
Former baykeeper Kevin McAllister at the wheel on the water. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Former baykeeper Kevin McAllister at the wheel on the water. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

After he was ousted from the Peconic Baykeeper program in March, ex-president Kevin McAllister now has his own group devoted to protecting Long Island waters.

Following a 16-year run with the advocacy group, Mr. McAllister founded Defend H2O last month with former East End business owner Skip Tollefsen and environmental consultant Mike Bottini.  (more…)

03/27/14 3:00pm

Former Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Peconic Baykeeper, Inc. remains “actively engaged” in its search for a new president after ex-baykeeper Kevin McAllister told The Riverhead News-Review last week that he’s fighting for his job back.

“It is unfortunate that Kevin McAllister and Ms. [Barbara] Matthews have chosen to use the press as their mouthpiece,” a statement from Peconic Baykeeper said. “The Peconic Baykeeper, Inc. reiterates that it does not discuss personnel issues in public.”  (more…)

03/19/14 12:12pm
03/19/2014 12:12 PM

Kevin McAllister is no longer with Peconic Baykeeper after more than 15 years. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The nonprofit Peconic Baykeeper organization, charged with safeguarding East End waterways, has lost its lead watchdog, an agency spokeswoman confirmed. Kevin McAllister, who served as president of the group for more than 15 years, is no longer affiliated with the organization.  (more…)

11/14/13 4:30pm
11/14/2013 4:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wildwood State Park in Wading River.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wildwood State Park in Wading River.

Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister has officially filed suit against the state parks department and the State University of New York for illegally discharging polluted wastewater from cesspools and septic systems at five state parks and a university campus.

Mr. McAllister filed the lawsuits in district court last week, identifying Wildwood State Park and Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus as facilities polluting nearby estuaries and rivers with excess nitrogen and pollutants without being issued the proper permits which he said is in violation of three federal environmental laws – the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The parks and university campus hold six of the largest septic/cesspool systems in Suffolk County – together, having the capacity to discharge more than 279,000 gallons of septic waste daily, according to a release from Mr. McAllister.

By comparison, a septic system at a single-family home typically has a capacity of 350 gallons per day, with sanitary waste being diluted by gray water from washing machines, dishwashers and showers, according to the release.

The filing comes just two weeks after the state parks department notified residents of plans to update about 30 septic systems at the five state parks.

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

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

05/19/13 11:00am
05/19/2013 11:00 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Joyce Conklin and Jim Miller(right) accept an award from the North Fork Environmental Council as Senator Ken LaValle praises the work of Mr. Miller and Ms. Conklin’s late husband, Bob.

The late Bob Conklin of Flanders and Jim Miller of Southold were honored as “Environmental Champions” by the North Fork Environmental Council on Thursday for their work establishing a fish passage at Grangebel Park.

The rock passage allows alewives and other fish to migrate from fresh to salt water, where they become food for other larger species like fluke, weakfish and striped bass.

Also honored was Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper for the past 15 years, who received the “Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year” award.

The awards were handed out at the Suffolk Community College culinary school in downtown Riverhead.

The Peconic River, like many rivers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was dammed up in spots to provide power for mills and other uses, cutting off the alewives’ migratory routes, which spawn in fresh water and migrate to salt water.

Mr. Conklin, a science teacher at Riverhead High School, initially would take his students down to the river to carry the alewives over the dam using nets.

But since this solution could only help a limited number of fish, Mr. Conklin in 2000 sought out the help of Mr. Miller, an environmental engineer and the founder of Miller Environmental in Calverton.

Mr. Miller helped set up an Alaskan Steep Pass, which was commonly called a fish ladder, and which helped the fish migrate over the dam from fresh water to salt water and back. But the fish ladder was only a temporary structure.

After a few years, they embarked on a plans to establish a permanent fish passage system at the Grangebel dam.

That system, which was aided by state and federal grants obtained by Riverhead Town, was completed in early 2011, just months after Mr. Conklin died in December 2010.

An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 alewives pass through the rock passageways, officials says. Eels also use the passageway.

The efforts of Mr. Conklin and others were featured on an episode of the television show, Lunkerville, in 2012, and that segment was shown Thursday night.

“It has reached a magnitude beyond our belief,” Mr. Miller said in the video. “We had fantasized that maybe some tens of thousand of fish could possibly migrate. We are now of the belief that it’s hundreds of thousands.  As they migrate out into the bay, they become primary foraging fish for the striped bass, the fluke and the weakfish, and those fish migrate out into the ocean, and the sharks and tuna will feed off the blue fish.

“It could actually impact the entire fisheries on the east coast of the United States.”

Mr. Conklin’s award was presented posthumously to his wife Joyce. She and Mr. Miller also were given proclamations by a number of elected officials.

Mr. Miller said Tim Griffing and Byron Young also should be recognized for their efforts in creating the fish passage. George Bartunek, who worked on the fish passage, said this was what Mr. Conklin loved to do.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister accepts an award from the North Fork Environmental Council at a reception in downtown Riverhead Thursday.

Mr. McAllister works for a private non-profit environmental organization called Peconic BayKeeper.

“He’s a man who has made a dramatic impact on our waterways,” said State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who said Mr. McAllister has highlighted the damage done to waterways by cesspools, and helped bring that issue to the forefront.

“The Peconic Bay is a resource people believed was infinite and no matter what we did to it, it would be still be there,” said South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor). “We’ve found out now that is not the case.”

NFEC president Bill Toedter said Mr. McAllister has highlighted the fact that “what we do on land determines what happens with our waters.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/09/13 12:00pm
04/09/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

The North Fork Environmental Council will honor baykeeper Kevin McAllister as its environmentalist of the year during an awards ceremony in Riverhead next month.

The organization will give Mr. McAllister, who for 15 years has advocated for the health of the Peconic estuary system and its wildlife, with its Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year award on Thursday, May 16 at the Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts Center in downtown Riverhead.

The NFEC says Mr. McAllister has worked over the past four years to show the connection between the health of the North Fork’s groundwater supplies and the health of its coastal waters.

“Kevin wears his passion on his sleeve, but it’s his work ethic, his dedication to doing what is right and his ability to challenge us to be better stewards of our lands and waters, of our future, which makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest,” Bill Toedter, NFEC president, said in a press release.

The organization will also name the late Bob Conklin, a former Riverhead science teacher, and Jim Miller, the founder of Miller Environmental, its Environmental Champions. Both were instrumental in the installation of a fish ladder allowing alewives, a herring-like fish, to return each year to their spawning grounds long blocked by the dam in Grangebel Park in Riverhead.

Information is available by calling 298-8880 or at nfec1.org.

tkelly@timesreview.com