Where Riverhead supervisor candidates stand on the environment


Using an atypical format for a forum on topics ranging from septic tanks to solar energy and single-use plastic bags, the three candidates for Riverhead Town Supervisor presented their positions on environmental issues Monday night. 

Incumbent Conservative candidate Sean Walter, Democratic nominee Anthony Coates and Republican Jodi Giglio appeared before an audience of more than 30 people at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center in downtown Riverhead. 

The forum did not have the trio squaring off and butting heads, however. Instead, the candidates appeared one at a time before an audience to offer their stances and answer an identical string of questions posed by North Fork Environmental Council president Bill Toedter. The  event was organized by the New York League of Conservation Voters.

Using a format atypical for a forum on topics ranging from septic tanks to solar energy and single-use plastic bags, the three candidates for Riverhead Town Supervisor presented their positions on environmental issues Monday night.

Incumbent and Conservative candidate Sean Walter, Democratic nominee Anthony Coates and Republican Jodi Giglio appeared before an audience of more than 30 people at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center in downtown Riverhead.

Here’s what the candidates had to say:

Note: Due to the length and complexity of the actual questions posed at the forum, the questions shown below have been summarized and shortened.

Q. How would you address outdated septic systems and nitrogen runoff?

Sean Walter: We should not be fertilizing our property on the Peconic River. Should I get re-elected … I’m going to stop doing that … It is my goal to sewer south of Peconic Bay Boulevard all the way to the Jamesport-Laurel line … We’ve applied for a grant. We will start in one or two of the communities south of Peconic Bay Boulevard and we’ll look for inclusion into our sewer district … If you go upstate New York into the Catskills, you can get a sewage treatment plant 80 or 90 percent funded from the state of New York. If we could do that here, people might actually put the new systems in.

Anthony Coates: I think we need to encourage best behavior and we need to educate people what the best practices are, and that starts with the homeowners. There are various septic upgrades sitting in the county … that I would prod as a supervisor to get the county to approve … We need to come up with a system of tax incentives that allow people in the here and now to change what they use to treat waste at home … If we do sewer, we need to advertise well in advance that this does not mean an increase in density.

Jodi Giglio: I had already proposed and had legislation adopted for properties in the watershed area that any improvements to those homes would require and upgrade to their sanitary systems. I think that helps significantly … [I also think] we should put forth legislation to limit fertilizer-dependent vegetation on some properties … I also proposed clearing limits on residential lots that are part of new subdivisions and that are over two acres.

Q. Do you think the rate system at the scavenger waste plant should be re-examined?

SW: We should increase the tipping fees to keep it so the plant can pay its way without burdening the Town of Riverhead … We will continue to be the regional scavenger waste plant. There’s no changing that.

AC: Yes, people should pay their fair share … You as a Town Board and as a supervisor need to make sure you’ve tightened up the loopholes to make sure no one comes in and develops behind an increase in sewering.

JG: I do support the sustainability of our scavenger waste plant. It looks like we are going to have to raise fees for our scavenger waste plant … It’s important to talk and have conversations with the county — which I have — about the county facilities coming off the Riverhead sewage plant and having their own plant.

Q. Do you support allocating 20 percent of Community Preservation Fund revenues to go toward water quality issues?

SW: Yes.

AC: Yes.

JG: Yes.

Q. Would you support redesignating Main Road east of Route 105 as a rural corridor?

SW: I have to look at it more.

AC: Yes.

JG: Yes.

Q. Do you support phasing out single-use plastic bags in Riverhead?

SW: No.

AC: Yes.

JG: No.

Q. Would you join with other East End towns in creating a storm plan to preserve shorelines and coastal areas?

SW: I would say yes, but haven’t seen the local waterfront revitalization plan and the devil’s in the details … If you’re going to live [on at-risk shores], you should understand your house is eventually going to fall in and is at risk because that’s how nature works. But everything you talk about, I support.

AC: We got battered and bashed [during] Sandy like a lot of people did. I support the governor’s resiliency plans and I support increased plantings. I think that’s a natural way to ameliorate a lot of problems before they happen … I strongly support joining with the other East End towns. This is something that is regional in nature.

JG: I think it’s important to identify any potential hazards that would occur in the Peconic Estuary … I think the [local waterfront revitalization plan] is instrumental in carrying out those measures.

Q. Should flyboarding be allowed in the Peconic River?

SW: The flyboarding was a dumb idea and should not have happened in the Peconic River for a number of reasons … Stirring up all that sediment, polluted or not, is going to create a situation that makes it uninhabitable for microorganisms because when you eliminate the light, you eliminate the oxygen.

AC: I’m dead set against flyboarding next to the estuary. I think we wouldn’t have even been talking about this had it been brought by a different individual or a different group, and I’m embarrassed that we spent so much time talking about it.

JG: I voted to adopt the legislation to push it out to the bay. That tells you where I stand.

Q. Where do you stand on renewable energy? Should a fossil fuel-drive peaker plant be allowed in Riverhead?

SW: This is what the residents have to answer — this is not for me to answer … Long Island has to answer this question for itself: Is solar so critical that when we have such a small landbase, we are willing to take out significant portions of agriculturally productive property and put it into solar? … There’s a lot of public outcry against these solar farms … [Windmills] are not a good fit here on Long Island, but off in the ocean, 100 percent we should be using it.

AC: We just don’t adhere to scientific reality in this town. Yes, I’d work with my neighbors. I’d work on a regional approach to solving these issues … At every county parking lot, there’s solar collectors. Why not here?

JG: When it comes to wind energy, I was part of the Suffolk County Planning Commission efforts to study wind energy and brought legislation to the Town Board and was adopted for two-acre parcels and more. I also brought the initiative forward to allow fast-tracking solar applications on residential properties …When it comes to a fossil fuel-driven peaker plant at the EPCAL property, energy generation is a problem on the East End … A peaker plant may be necessary.

Q. What is your position on waste management and single-stream recycling?

SW: The single-stream idea has merit … People have to make the decision that they’re not going to live in a 5,000 square foot house with all of the bells and whistles.

AC: In Brookhaven, they have a single-stream recycling program and it works fine and it’s increased compliance. That is a baby step and an important step to getting a handle on our waste.

JG: Right now, we have collected $33,000 in recyclables money from the carters who are taking recyclables away and giving the town money … It’s important that we work on recyclables and figure out the best way to do it.

Q. Can you comment on the inadvertent dumping of asbestos-tainted material at EPCAL in March?

SW: That was a stupid decision. It shouldn’t have happened … Councilwoman Giglio decided she was going to get some material for free to build a bike path … It was never permitted by the Town Board … We took care of it, there were no issues, we didn’t use any of that material … It’s very rare that you get something for free that’s any good.

AC: There are a lot of bad things going on at EPCAL and we have to get a handle on it. That means you sweep code enforcement through there and, if you have to, use the police. EPCAL is a place that’s ripe for mischief … I went back and looked at the transcript and the chronology of that [incident] and I just don’t buy what [Ms. Giglio] had to say … She sat mum knowing that material was there. I don’t buy that she didn’t know that material was there.

JG: The highway superintendent has repeatedly in the media accepted and acknowledged that that was his responsibility for the dumping, and I worked with him to try to get it off of EPCAL.

Q. How can we prevent too much local vegetation from being cleared?

SW: When we do subdivisions, we should have tree ordinances that do not allow them to clear subdivisions … You have my word that that legislation will get put forward.

AC: It’s a tremendous problem … We’ve had developers clear-cutting with impunity … I favor dealing with it at the outset. I’d rather have trees that were indigenous in the first place rather than going back and planting trees … You deal with it on the approval of each [site plan] application.

JG: I think it’s important that the town look at clearing plans and look at restricting the amount of clearing that can take place on the lot, and also that the amount of fertilizer-dependent vegetation be limited.

[email protected]