Town Hall Notes: Water committee to reform, Board hears updates on Bay to Sound project

At a Town Board work session Tuesday, Councilwoman Sarah Nappa confirmed she is in the beginning stages of setting up a water committee for the Town of Southold. 

Five people have submitted resumes to be a part of the newly formed water committee and two liaisons, one from the board of trustees and one from the town board, have also agreed to participate. The committee will monitor water usage and qualityand advise the Town Board on matters such as sprinkler sensors and water contaminants. 

“We are at a critical point with our water usage,” Ms. Nappa said. “So I think it’s really important to get this going. It’s been a bit of a struggle getting it off the ground, with Covid making it hard to get anything done. We have a good group so far and together we will discuss different strategies to protect our shorelines and drinking water.”

The proposed formation of this committee comes just as Citizens Campaign for the Environment, an advocacy group, released an interactive map showing amounts of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and other harmful “forever chemicals” in Long Island’s drinking water. The group’s map shows an area served by the Suffolk County Water Authority in Peconic with more than 20 parts per trillion of PFAS detected in the supply. The chemicals were also detected in a portion of Riverhead’s water district.

According to CCE, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently updated its drinking water health advisory, lowering their acceptable exposure levels from 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS to .004 ppt for PFOA and .02 ppt for PFOS. While NYS is considering lowering the drinking water standard, similar to what states like Maine and Massachusetts did, Ms. Nappa said having a committee dedicated to reporting on water contaminants for the town of Southold would greatly benefit the community. 

Suffolk County Water Authority issued an advisory to its customers that their water is safe to drink, accusing the organization of overstating the levels of PFAS-related chemicals found in the water by using the highest values from tests taken throughout the year rather than the average/

“[That] means they do not represent the water quality in any given location at any given time,” the utility said. “This is misleading and undermines public confidence in their drinking water,” the advisory reads.

SCWA officials said they are in the process of installing treatment systems to ensure there are no detectable levels of PFAS in its public supply and is taking legal action to ensure polluters pay for the costs of treatment systems

Bay to Sound update 

Extensive efforts for the fifth phase of the Bay to Sound Trail initiative are underway. The Group for the East End reported on numerous volunteer clean-up projects at a Town Board work session Tuesday, noting that attendance for many of these programs exceeding expectations.

“By November of this year, we hosted 64 programs and 327 people attended our programs at Downs Farm Preserve,” said the Group’s Director of Outreach Taralynn Reynolds. “We reached our target goal of programs for the year.”

Volunteers including Girl Scout Troop 2125, helped remove invasive species and plant natives at Downs Farm Preserve. (Courtesy photo)

Community-based restoration projects are ongoing during this phase of the project. A 1,600-square-foot native meadow and thicket were added to the Downs Farm Preserve. Volunteers, including Girl Scout Troop 2125, have dedicated numerous hours helping the Group remove invasive species and planting over 600 plants native to Long Island in one day. 

“Since August, we have had 332 hours of volunteer service,” said GIS Technician John Sepenoski. “We are on track to smash the required 655 hours needed for Phase 5. People clearly want to get more involved in Bay to Sound and Downs Farm.”

Ms. Reynolds also mentioned the number of donations received by the Group. Glover Perennials and the Long Island Native Plant Initiative gave generous donations in order to help restore the native wildlife out on the East End of Long Island. Long Island Natives also offered donations. 

Social media presence is a new emphasis the Group is working on as a part of the Phase 5 initiative. They have maintained a large following of over 3300 followers on Instagram this year, posting advertisements for their projects and programs as well as tips on how to be more sustainable at home. 

“Social media is an art and our media manager [Rachel Bosworth] knows how to use it really well,” said Ms. Reynolds. “Our posts are planned out on a calendar and we decide what we want to post and when in order to get the most engagement with our followers.”

Permits were approved for trails to be built at Clay Pit County Park, which is linked to Arshamomaque Preserve and Pipes Cove and was purchased by Suffolk County in 2020, as well as Arshamomaque County Park. Construction on boardwalks at both locations has begun and parking areas have been approved as well. Cleanup projects for Clay Pit are ongoing, with about 75% of trails cleared and about six tons of trash collected.