12/13/16 6:00am

Long Island Sound Greenport

Less than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state is preparing to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, local officials and environmentalists have extended their support to the state, which is challenging the federal agency’s decision to permanently allow dumping of dredged material in Long Island Sound.

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01/11/14 12:00pm
01/11/2014 12:00 PM
Screen shot image of the updated EPA Citizen Science website

Screen shot image of the updated EPA Citizen Science website

Residents interested in environmental issues now have a new informational tool to help them plan experiments, research and collect data — the Environmental Protection Agency’s Citizen Science website.

The website, which had already previously existed, is now updated with detailed information about air, water, and soil monitoring; including recommendations for equipment and resources to aid in research areas specific to New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which make up EPA Region 2, according to the state agency.

“The EPA encourages the public to use the new website as a tool in furthering their scientific investigations and developing solutions to pollution problems.” said Judith Enck, regional administrator at the EPA in a press release. “Citizen Science is an increasingly important part of the EPA’s commitment to using sound science and technology to protect people’s health and safeguard the environment.”

Visitors can also get information on funding opportunities that can be applied for — both government sponsored grants and commercially funded grants. It also includes testimonials from other citizen scientists about experiments successfully completed within the region, according to the site.

If anyone in the area is pursing a Citizen Science project of their own, we would like to hear about it. Please contact environmental reporter Carrie Miller at the address below.

[email protected]

 

12/23/13 5:00pm
12/23/2013 5:00 PM
SC_Jail_BE_R.jpg

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.

[email protected]

06/26/13 10:00am
06/26/2013 10:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | EPA environmental scientist Bernward Hay listens to the concerns of audience members Tuesday.

Local government officials blasted members of the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday for failing to properly notify them about a public meeting regarding the agency’s intentions to designate dredged spoil dumping sites in the eastern Long Island Sound.

The meeting, held at Suffolk Community College’s culinary center in Riverhead, outlined the EPA’s plans to conduct a supplemental environmental impact study evaluating potential dumping sites in the eastern portion of the Sound.

Four dredging sites currently exist in the Sound. Cornfield Shoals is the closest to the North Fork, located north of Greenport. The New London site is just west of Fishers Island. The other two sites are the western Suffolk site, south of Stamford, Conn. and the central Sound site, south of New Haven.

For the past 30 years dredged material from the eastern Long Island Sound has been disposed of primarily at the New London and Cornfield Shoals sites. Both are scheduled to close in 2016, prompting the EPA to seek out new dredge spoil disposal locations.

Alternative areas being considered are located off of Southold and Greenport.

“One of the things you said is if you want to get the public involved in this process, well, you first have to invited the public,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who told EPA members he was first notified of the meeting just 24 hours earlier.

Furthermore, Mr. Russell said he has not received answers to questions previously submitted to the agency on the issue.

“As supervisor of Southold Town I certainly should be involved in this process,” he said. “You need to make sure we are at the table for this discussion.”

Approximately 20 people attended the meeting, many echoing Mr. Russell’s statement about the short notice.

During the hour-long presentation representatives from EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, who helps designate and monitor the sites, outlined the process of choosing a new dumping area.

“This is a work in progress we are narrowing down locations that could work as a potential site,” said Bernward Hay, an EPA environmental scientist. Mr. Hay noted the environmental impact statement would not guarantee the approval of any proposed dumping site.

The new impact study will build on an evaluation conducted in 2005 when the agency established dumping sites in the western and central portion of the Sound, according to the presentation.

The study would analyze sediment, geographical position, depth of water, distance from the coastline and the history of dumping in the proposed areas, Mr. Hay said. The study would also take into account impacts on shellfish beds, fishing areas, shipping lanes and recreation areas.

But local lawmakers expressed frustration over the presentation.

“Suffolk County has an agriculture leasing program that’s not mentioned at all,” Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said.

Citizens agreed the proposal wasn’t comprehensive.

While the dredge material from Long Island is mostly sand that can be used for beach restoration, Connecticut dredge spoil is fine-grain silt or clay that’s not suitable for beach repairs. Because of that most of what is deposited in these sites comes from Connecticut, according to the EPA.

“Anything that comes from Connecticut ends up on Long Island’s beaches,” Mattituck resident Ron McGreevy said. “I think you need to collect more information from the Long Island side of the Sound.”

The Farmingdale-based nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment doesn’t believe any dredge spoil should be dumped in the Sound, according to its executive programs manager, Maureen Dolan Murphy.

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed in 2005 to phase out open water dumping and to develop a dredged material management plan before deciding to move forward with this step, however that plan was never developed, Ms. Murphy said.

Elected officials also questioned the continued use of underwater dumping sites.

“It’s well documented that there is a high incidence of shell disease in crabs and lobster in the waters around these dump sites,” said James King, Southold Town Trustee and commercial lobster fisherman. “I think the bottom line here is that water disposal is the cheapest, easiest way to get rid of dredge spoil. There is a lot of game playing.”

The EPA said it would continue to assess the proposed sites in more detail and include more data.

Additional public meetings on the issue will be held in the winter.

A dredge spoil disposal map showing current dumping sites.

10/21/12 9:00am
10/21/2012 9:00 AM
Tim Bishop, DEC, EPA,

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | From left, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Congrssman Tim Bishop, Joan Leary Matthew of the EPA, and Alison Branco, the Peconic Estuary Program administrator.

The Peconic Estuary Program, which is part of a network of 28 nationally protected estuaries, turns 20 this year.

Officials who helped to foster the program that put the Peconic Bays in the national spotlight renewed their pledge to protect the bays in the future, at a press event overlooking Flanders Bay at Hubbard County Park in Flanders Friday morning.

The event was organized by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who arrived late because he had difficulty finding the park.

“Nine months in, I’m still getting to know some of our resources,” he joked, before presenting a proclamation honoring the 20th Anniversary of the Peconic Estuary Program to the program’s director, Alison Branco, a marine biologist with the county health department’s office of ecology.

“This program has been critical to protecting the beauty of our way of life,” he said.

Attendees to the event included federal, state and local environmentalists and government representatives, many of whom played a critical role in convincing the federal government to place the Peconic Bays in the National Estuary Program in 1992.

The designation has made the bays eligible for funding at all levels of government for programs ranging from free boat pump-out service to storm drain installation to brown tide research and scallop restoration projects.

“This is a great day for Eastern Long Island and a great day for the Peconic Estuary,” said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).

Mr. Bishop stressed that more work has to be done to keep the federal government at the table in protecting sensitive estuaries.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who was serving on the county Legislature when the county petitioned the federal government to make the Peconics a national estuary, recalled the Legislature’s efforts, as well as the efforts of Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy environmental group, which helped lead the charge to have the estuary included in the program.

Mr. Theile echoed the theme of many public officials in attendance Friday, that the estuary is crucial to the tourism industry and the economy of Eastern Long Island.

He turned to look out the window of the building where the press conference was held, through the falling rain, at the salt marshes and the bay.

“I see a beautiful site, but I also see jobs,” he said.

DEC regional director Peter Scully pointed out that the state has invested in scallop restoration and other projects since the estuary was added to the national program.

“Good work begets good work,” he said. “This is a solid program.”

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04/14/11 5:10pm
04/14/2011 5:10 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | An oil tanker docked in the Sound at Iron Pier in Northville.

The entire Long Island Sound, from the East River to Fishers Island, could soon join the Peconic Bay estuary as a federally designated no-discharge zone (NDZ), where it’s illegal for vessels of all sizes to dump sewage, treated or untreated, into the water.

Sewage dumped overboard can have damage marine habitats. Regulators say even a small discharge over shellfish beds could make people sick from eating raw shellfish.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency tentatively approved the Sound’s status on Monday, April 11. That opened a 30-day public comment period. Mark Tedesco, director of the EPA’s Long Island Sound office in Stamford, Ct, has said that, depending on the comments received, the EPA’s goal is to approve the NDZ by May 30.

The Peconic Bay system became a no discharge zone in 2002 and the Connecticut side of the Sound received NDZ status in 2007. Peconic Bay and the Sound are among only 28 waterways listed by the EPA as estuaries of “national significance.”

Local officials who have been working with state and federal agencies for years to gain the NDZ status hailed the decision.

“This is really great news,” said Southold Trustee Dave Bergen. “This supports our continued goal to improve water quality and support our valuable marine ecosystem.”

Under state navigation law, NDZ violations can result in fines of up to $1,000 per offense.

The New York-side Sound NDZ zone would cover 760 square miles. Based on 2008 vessel registrations, the EPA estimates that the Sound is home to about 11,700 recreational boats and another 500 small commercial vessels, including tugs, fishing boats and barges, which make up the bulk of the commercial traffic.