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Palumbo continues tradition started by predecessor to host environmental roundtable

Keeping a long-running tradition alive, new state Sen. Anthony Palumbo is continuing his predecessor’s practice of conducting regular environmental roundtables.

On Friday, Mr. Palumbo assembled representatives from more than a dozen area environmental organizations on Zoom to hear their concerns and priorities. He began the virtual meeting by thanking recently retired state Sen. Kenneth LaValle, who served in the Legislature for 44 years. Mr. Palumbo won that seat in November after serving in the Assembly.

At the start of the virtual meeting, Mr. LaValle, who conducted similar roundtables for years, said, “Some of the most beautiful areas in this state and maybe the world are on the East End. I am glad to see Sen. Palumbo continuing this practice.”

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said, “This roundtable was held for so many years. It was always a good sounding board for all of us to get together. So many different initiatives got raised at the roundtables. We were able to come up with legislation and budget initiatives. It’s been very productive … This is a good time to get together and establish priorities.”

Mr. Thiele spoke about the growth of off-shore wind farms and said record amounts of money were now being generated by the Community Preservation Fund — “one of the few revenue sources that have actually increased in the past 12 months.”

Newly elected Assembly member Jodi Giglio said, “I look forward to hearing the issues that are important to you. We are continually beating the drum on the same issues. I am here to listen and learn any way I can.”

Organizations participating in the roundtable included the Pine Barrens Commission, The Nature Conservancy, Peconic Land Trust, North Fork Environmental Council and Group for the East End, among others.

When his turn to speak came, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine began by saying, “We have a long list of things for you guys.” He then spoke about groundwater contamination at the former U.S. Navy site at Calverton.

“The plume has impacted 65 homes on the Brookhaven side, with the rest in Riverhead,” Mr. Romaine said. “We need the Navy to dig into its pockets and provide these homes with clean water.”

He said the estimated cost for the cleanup is approximately $12.5 million, with $5.5 million of that on the Brookhaven side.

“I would like a larger area tested to see how far this plume has hit,” he said. “The Navy has put water into the Peconic Sportsman Club. I want to get water to these homes as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Romaine went on to say he wanted “all the other ponds and the river tested to see if that plume has affected any other bodies of water.”

He also said he supported an effort led by Mr. Thiele to restrict sand mining on the East End, and questioned why the state Department of Environmental Conservation “has such a different view of this.” He also cautioned that, with Brookhaven planning to close its landfill in 2024, “illegal dumping will increase all over the East End.

“Clearly, we need a regional plan for solid waste,” Mr. Romaine said. “This can’t be done by my town or any other town. The DEC has to step up with a regional plan. They have failed on this.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) spoke about the success of protecting federally owned Plum Island from being sold. “That sale is now off the books,” he said. “That was an exciting victory.”

Other speakers reinforced Mr. Romaine’s position that the Navy pay to clean up the groundwater plume. They spoke about the urgent need to reduce the amount of solid waste generated in the area as well as the need to reduce food waste.

Bill Zalakar of the Long Island Farm Bureau said the overpopulation of deer on the East End has caused millions of dollars in crop damage. “We would hope you would work with the DEC for a better management plan on the deer problem,” he said.

Mr. Zalakar also mentioned the need to support aquaculture in the Peconic Bay system. “The average oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day,” he said.