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A report released last week by the Department of Homeland Security outlining alternatives to selling Plum Island to the highest bidder has come under criticism from environmental groups.

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01/07/15 2:00pm
01/07/2015 2:00 PM
 Plum Island (Credit: file)

Plum Island. (Credit: Times/Review, file)

An advocacy group is threatening a lawsuit against two federal agencies in the latest attempt to halt the public sale of Plum Island, claiming officials have failed to protect endangered species inhabiting the isle.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment, along with the Long Island version Save the Sound, issued notice Monday to the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration — the two agencies that oversee the island — of an intent to sue under violation of the Endangered Species Act.

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09/30/13 1:20pm
09/30/2013 1:20 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Gov. Andrew Cuomo stood at Orient Point State Park Monday urging the federal government to clean up Plum Island before it is sold.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on the federal government to require a comprehensive environmental cleanup plan for Plum Island and to give the state final review of the Island’s conditions before it is put up for sale.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and General Services Administration hope to close the research laboratory at Plum Island and use the profits from the island’s sale to cover the cost of constructing a new, $1.1 billion animal disease research laboratory in Manhattan, Kan.

During a press conference at Orient Beach State Park Monday morning the governor said DHS and GSA have dismissed environmental concerns raised by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in its recently issued Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.

In 2010, the DEC identified a number of concerns related to landfills, buildings and other areas on the site and possible contamination of groundwater.

Subsequent DEC site inspections revealed the lab failed to properly manage and dispose of its solid waste and adhere to appropriate quality control and testing procedures for laboratory waste, Mr. Cuomo said.

In a letter dated Friday addressed to the DHS and GSA, the governor demanded the federal government conduct a full investigation on possible contamination issues that could potentially cause health, environmental and economic risks.

“Over the past three years, New York State has raised the issue of potentially serious environmental issues at the federal government’s Animal Disease Center on Plum Island that have not been fully addressed,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “Before the sale of Plum Island can continue, Washington must step up and sign a legally binding consent order spelling out its full plan for cleaning up the Island and giving the State oversight authority to make sure the work has been done properly.”

Mr. Cuomo is not the only one who believes the federal government hasn’t done its due diligence. Other elected leaders have taken issue with the sale and taken steps to prevent development at the land after the government’s final environmental study suggested up to 500 homes could be built on the island.

Southold Town approved new zoning laws last month that would prevent any significant development of the island.

County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who spearheaded the zoning proposal when he was a member of the Town Board, said he supports Mr. Cuomo efforts.

“The Federal Government must be held accountable for environmental degradation that has occurred over the years and it is their responsibility to remediate; they should not be allowed to pass the buck,” Mr. Krupski said in a statement.

A GSA spokesperson previously said the agency is working with other agencies to address environmental concerns.

“Addressing all environmental concerns surrounding the sale of the island is a top priority for the federal government,” GSA spokeman Patrick Sclafani said in a prepared statement last month. “GSA and DHS will continue to work closely with [the Environmental Protection Agency], congressional and local officials to ensure all environmental concerns are reviewed and considered.”

The Governor’s letter can be viewed below.

Cuomo urges Plum Island environment study

09/08/12 4:00pm
09/08/2012 4:00 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | The Orient Point Lighthouse in Plum Gut is being auctioned off by the federal General Services Administration, but local lighthouse preservation organizations don’t have the money to buy it.

The federal General Services Administration is still looking for a buyer for the Orient Point Lighthouse, the black and white striped, cast iron-plated tower that warns mariners of the underwater rocks on the western side of Plum Gut.

The GSA first announced its plan to sell the lighthouse, which stands on a tiny, rocky island less than half a nautical mile from Orient Point, last summer.

At the time, members of the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation, which had just merged with East End Lighthouses, said they were interested, but the project has since proven financially untenable for them.

“We looked at it, we visited it and met with the GSA, but it’s just too much for our budget,” said East End Seaport president Ron Breuer,

The GSA has received five bids on the property. The most recent, for $30,000, came in Aug. 27.

GSA spokesman Patrick Sciafani confirmed this week that the auction of the property is still open and not yet scheduled to close.

The 45-foot-tall lighthouse was built in 1899 on a concrete-filled cast iron caisson, according to the bid specifications on the GSA’s auction website, realestatesales.gov. It has six levels, including two watch decks and three stories of living quarters.

The eventual owner will need to allow the U.S. Coast Guard access to maintain the light and fog signals, as well as solar panels and batteries.

GSA is also looking to sell the one-acre Little Gull Island, seven miles east of Orient Point and directly east of Plum Island.

The light station at Little Gull Island, established in 1869, contains a sound signal that blasts every 15 seconds.

There have been two bids on Little Gull Island, the most recent for $60,000.

Prospective owners can place their bids on the GSA’s website.

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