06/27/14 12:00pm
06/27/2014 12:00 PM
A view of the bay and SHelter Island from Pepi's Restaurant in Southold, near Port of Egypt. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A view of the bay and SHelter Island from Pepi’s Restaurant in Southold, near Port of Egypt. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Despite the op/ed pieces, press conferences, television appearances and lobbying by county and state officials and environmentalists from across the region, 2014 may not be the year for clean water on Long Island.

The state Senate failed to act last week on sweeping legislation aimed at safeguarding Nassau and Suffolk county’s many bays and tributaries, Long Island Sound and groundwater aquifers.

(more…)

06/11/14 2:23pm
06/11/2014 2:23 PM
The water bill is designed to clean groundwater and prevent pollution and harmful algal blooms in the bays and Long Island Sound. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

The water bill is designed to clean groundwater and prevent pollution and harmful algal blooms in the bays and Long Island Sound. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

After an up-Island assemblyman recently pitched a clean water bill creating a timeline for improving wastewater treatment systems, matching legislation has been proposed in the state Senate, potentially clearing the way for sweeping water quality reform in Albany before the end of next week.

If signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the bill stands to affect property owners throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.  (more…)

06/10/14 2:59pm
06/10/2014 2:59 PM
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, calling 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 year. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, calling 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 year. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

After 16 years of research and debate, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has released its strategy for safeguarding Long Island’s water supplies from pesticide contamination.

But that final document, at its heart, simply calls for more research and debate.  (more…)

06/05/14 1:08pm
06/05/2014 1:08 PM
That deal would requires approval from both county legislators and county taxpayers in November. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

That deal would requires approval from both county legislators and county taxpayers in November. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

After environmentalists sued Suffolk County earlier this year for “raiding” more than $30 million dollars from the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program, environmentalists and county leaders announced an agreement that will replace the funds and safeguard the reserve in the future.

County Executive Steven Bellone and members of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Group for the East End announced the deal — which  still needs approval from county legislators, as well as a voter referendum in November — on Wednesday.

Under the proposed settlement, the county could still dip into the fund until 2018, in order to fulfill its long term financial needs, however any money diverted would be paid back in full, according to the agreement. The agreement would ban the use of Drinking Water Protection Program funds for alternate purposes beyond 2018 without voter approval.

“This is a good faith effort on the part of the County Executive and County Legislature to right a wrong,” said Mr. Amper. “It was initiated by the County Executive. He called me and said this is contradictory to what we are trying to do. Lets fix it.

The Drinking Water Protection Program is funded by a self-imposed tax that county residents voted to levy upon themselves several times since 1987. It is intended to protect groundwater through several specific uses, such as open space purchases and a fund dedicated to stabilizing sewer rates for residents. It would not otherwise come up for a vote again until 2030.

In 2011, and again in 2014, the county dipped into the fund, using it to help plug budget gaps which environmentalists say violates the terms under which voters agreed to tax themselves, making it illegal.

Under the proposed settlement, the county could still dip into the fund until 2018, in order to fulfill it’s long-term financial needs, however any money diverted would be paid back in full, according to the agreement.

Environmental advocates, led by Pine Barren’s champion Richard Amper, sued the county — twice — challenging that the funds raised through the program could not be diverted to other uses without a referendum voted on “by the taxpayers who created it.”

The Bellone administration has aggressively been targeting a goal of improving the county’s long term water quality, an effort the county exec has dubbed the ‘Reclaim Our Water’ initiative. Mr. Bellone has announced support for extending sewers on the west side of the county and fast-tracking the approval of denitrification systems. On the North Fork, the county threw its support behind a study exploring the use of such systems in Orient, spending $60,000 to see if the group systems would work in the un-sewered hamlet.

Mr. Amper said on Thursday that, “it would be inconsistent to say [the county is] fighting to improve water quality, while at the same time taking away money from the fund.”

Urging the legislature to follow suit and vote on the deal, Mr. Bellone agreed.

“It’s a simple principle: voters created the drinking water protection program, they voted to reauthorize it, and therefore, we should go to the voters when we seek to amend it,” he said.

The 2014 budget used $32.8 million from the program, specifically the county’s sewer stabilization fund. Under former County Executive Steve Levy’s administration, the county used about $20 million.

“The 2011 raids were conduced by the Levy administration, and they were not understanding or cooperative at all,” Mr. Amper said. “Bellone’s is taking a much more productive view.”

The settlement puts to rest a petition campaign initiated in February seeking a similar outcome.

Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, who helped hammer out the fund restoration deal said, “every resident of Suffolk County should feel good about this settlement,” adding that government can be “moved by an organized, mobilized citizenry that acts with purpose, passion and persistence.”

Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who voted against the 2014 budget which included dipping into the fund, said “I am certainly encouraged that there is an agreement, and I think we all need to work together on achieving water quality goals. I have to look at the details to say definitively whether I will support it.”

Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) stressed that the deal still needs to be approved by the county legislature.

“I think it’s a very complicated settlement that a lot of people are taking a careful look at,” he explained. “If it serves the taxpayers and help to give us a little more environmental protection, I will support it.”

cmiller@timesreview.com 

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…)

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…)

04/12/14 7:00am
04/12/2014 7:00 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)

Alternative on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) for nitrogen reduction are being investigated for use in Suffolk County, and while they may have utility in some cases, they are not a panacea to our individual wastewater treatment issues.

Here are some facts that one should consider before installing such a system.  (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…)