Village hires engineering firm to examine sewage discharge into Sound

Greenport Village has hired an engineering firm to examine why the village sewage treatment plant discharged partially treated sewage into Long Island Sound on two occasions in November.

On Nov. 16, the Suffolk County Health Department issued an advisory to take precautions before fishing or swimming in Long Island Sound near the facility’s effluent discharge off Inlet Pond County Park in Greenport “following an early morning discharge of residual solids as a result of yesterday’s snow storm.”

The plant was working under normal conditions by 2:30 p.m. that day, the county said.

Then on Tuesday, the health department issued another advisory to take precautions before swimming or fishing near the outfall pipes following a notification of a “discharge laden with activated sludge particles at the locations following heavy rainfall” on Monday, Nov. 26.

The health department urged residents and fishermen to avoid contact with these waters until conditions at the village wastewater treatment facility improve.

Village Administrator Paul Pallas said the plant was working properly by about 2 p.m. Tuesday. The village said it immediately informed the state Department of Environmental Conservation and took mitigation measures.

The DEC has issued a notice of violation to the village, officials said.

In addition, the village hired the engineering firm J.R. Holzmacher, which has worked with the village before, to find out why the partially treated discharge occurred.

Mr. Pallas said it’s presumed that the heavy rain and snow on those two days were a factor, but he said this has never happened before.

“We will leave it up to the expert to assist us in that evaluation,” he said.

The sewage treatment facility is located on Moore’s Lane, but the outfall pipe extends underground and into Long Island Sound, where it discharges treated effluent.

“The plant itself was not an issue,” Mr. Pallas said. “The plant’s systems all functioned as designed.”

He said officials believe the amount of material coming in due to the heavy rain and snow on those days was more than normal. Tidal conditions are also suspected.

Still, he said, the plant should be able to handle those conditions.

“I don’t think every time it rains, this is going to happen,” Mr. Pallas said. “That’s not something we’re anticipating anyway.”

He said he couldn’t predict how long the J.R. Holzmacher study would take or how much it would cost. He also declined to estimate as to how many gallons of partially-treated effluent were discharged into the Sound.

The Village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program update from 2014 says the plant discharges between 220,000 to 250,000 gallons per day in winter off-peak seasons and about 325,000 gallons per days during peak summer usage.

The Health Department says people who come in contact with water that contains partially treated effluent should rinse off with clean water immediately.

“Seek medical attention if after exposure you experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; skin, eye or throat irritation, or allergic reactions or breathing difficulties,” the Health Department notice stated.

Shellfishing is not permitted in this area any time, the notice added.

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