This Week in North Fork History: Mystery spill plagues East Marion

JUDY AHRENS FILE PHOTO | East Marion resident Sharon Rogers and her children, Brian and Rachel, fill up their trunk with bottled water in the March 17, 1988 Suffolk Times cover photo.

25 years ago

Families were forced to change the way they use the water supply in their homes after a “mysterious influx of a deadly and cancer-producing chemical” was discovered in a well on the west side of Old Orchard Lane in East Marion, reporter Jack Williams wrote in the March 17, 1988 issue of The Suffolk Times.

The Suffolk County Health Department had detected a mix of the chemical “1, 1, 1 trichloroethane” that was seven times more than the acceptable drinking water limit in a well on Old Orchard.

“No one knows where it comes from,” we wrote.

The story focused on the adjustments being made by full time residents of the block. Sharon Rogers said she was buying 40 gallons of bottled water per week. “It’s an expense we never bargained for,” she said.

Some families said they weren’t just avoiding drinking the water, but refraining from bathing in it, too.

One resident of the block said she bought her house after the testing was done and didn’t know about the water issues when she first moved in.

“I love this house,” said Karen McLaughlin. “I wouldn’t ever want to move again. But we all drank the water right out of the tap for about two weeks after we moved in, before we found out about the tests. Now we wonder about what the kids drank during those two weeks.”

Postscript: The Suffolk County Water Authority later brought public water to the area, enabling residents of Old Orchard Lane to hook up to the county system. Others opted to install private filtration systems.

A nuclear bomb in Mattituck?

Long Island’s first and only nuclear bomb has come to rest at the American Armoured Foundation Inc. Tank and Ordinance War Museum on Love Lane, read the lead of a story published in the March 17, 1988 issue of The Suffolk Times.

The inert bomb was on display at the museum, which was open every Sunday in Mattituck.

“We believe this bomb is the only item of this type on display in New York,” the museum said in a statement that week. “The nuke is three feet in diameter and approximately nine feet tall.”

Postscript: The museum left Mattituck in 1999, moving to Danville Virginia, where it remains open today.

75 years ago

Bandits loot bank in daylight

In one of the most daring and spectacular robberies in the history of the North Fork, four armed bandits looted the Mattituck Bank and Trust Company of about $6,000 on Friday of last week, we wrote in the March 17, 1938 issue of The Suffolk Times.

The gunmen and two others escaped in a stolen car which was later found abandoned.

A week after the arrest, three of the men associated with the robbery were in custody, we reported. The first was arrested within hours of the incident.

North Fork residents Doris Reeve, Jennie Sawinski,  Jack Rose and Henry L. Fleet were among those working in the bank at the time of the robbery. Mr. Fleet and bank patron Mary Fleming were locked in the vault by the robbers.

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