11/23/14 8:00am
11/23/2014 8:00 AM
The sun rising over Orient Harbor in Orient. (Credit: Tim Kelly file photo)

The sun rising over Orient Harbor in Orient. (Credit: Tim Kelly file photo)

Three clean water initiatives with North Fork ties have been granted some significant federal funding as part of a larger effort to protect the Long Island Sound, federal officials announced Wednesday.

Project proposals from the environmental advocacy groups Peconic Green Growth, the Azuero Earth Project and the American Farmland Trust were among 22 awarded to receive a total of $1.3 million. (more…)

08/23/14 3:00pm
08/23/2014 3:00 PM
Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)

Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)

If you’re a resident in one of the five eastern towns surrounding the Peconic Estuary, the nonprofit Peconic Green Growth wants to hear from you to better understand area wastewater practices. (more…)

07/05/14 6:00am
07/05/2014 6:00 AM
(Credit: Danielle Malmet Rodger)

‘Sanctuary,” canvas works by Greenport artist Danielle Malmet Rodger will be on display at Greenport Harbor Brewery this summer. (Credit: Danielle Malmet Rodger courtesy)

Auction donations sought: Art, antiques, goods and services are sought for a July 26 auction hosted by Peconic Green Growth.  (more…)

05/18/14 8:00am
05/18/2014 8:00 AM
The sun rising over Orient Harbor in Orient. (Credit: Tim Kelly file photo)

The sun rising over Orient Harbor in Orient. (Credit: Tim Kelly file photo)

In a nod to the need for advancing how the county handles nitrogen pollution near its waterways, Suffolk County approved a measure last week that could eventually make Orient the first existing community in Suffolk to install small wastewater treatment facilities meant to clean up the local ecosystem.

The county decided to spend $60,000 to match payment for an engineering report that will further explore waste treatment options for homeowners in the area, after a preliminary study was completed for nonprofit Peconic Green Growth in December 2013 (READ THE STUDY HERE).

December’s study illustrated which sites in Orient — population, 743, according to 2010 census data — would be most suitable to hold subsurface wastewater facilities. Seven parcels, which would be able to process waste for 574 people, were considered for further study.

Lawmakers have said that the upgrades to locals’ wastewater systems — which currently are cesspools for the most part, largely considered ineffective because nitrogen eventually seeps from them into the local waters — could reduce nitrogen pollution by 50 to 90 percent.

Effects from nitrogen pollution include threats to drinking water — a priority since the area gets its potable water through wells — as well as harm to marine life in the area. The Peconic Bay as a whole has seen rust tide become an annual occurrence in late summer as nitrogen loads have increased, researchers have said.

Glynis Berry, executive director of Peconic Green Growth, said on Thursday that the funding from the county will allow the nonprofit to hone in not only on the particular kinds of facilities that would work best for Orient, but provide cost estimates for the work and lay out steps toward realizing the changes as well. Ms. Berry said that in order to make the idea a reality, a special management district will likely have to be formed in the area to oversee the facilities. Current regulations may need to be changed as well.

“You can’t ask someone to join something until you have a better of what it works like and what it costs,” she said.

Ms. Berry said that the study, to be completed by Columbia County-based Clark Engineering, will provide a schematic design — not a final one — to give the community some real options to tackle wastewater treatment moving forward.

“We are not an official body. So we’re not dictating anything,” she said. “We are just exploring options, and hoping the community will buy into them.”

Over the past year, momentum has been building in Orient to look at phasing out outdated cesspools in the hamlet. A survey by Peconic Green Growth stated that “cesspools will be priority systems for upgrade” upon finding out that at least 40 percent of the survey’s 192 respondents had a cesspool — and based on how old the homes in the area are, that number could be as high as 58 percent.

County Executive Steve Bellone has also recently made water quality improvement one of his administration’s top priorities. The county exec penned an opinion piece in a March edition of The Suffolk Times, saying that curbing nitrogen pollution would be the “single most important initiative of [his] administration.” He is currently seeking $750 million in state and federal funding for sewer projects across the county.

The announcement came in line with his ‘Reclaim Our Water’ initiative, an effort aimed at educating the public about the effects of nitrogen pollution on local waters. While targeting points west for sewer projects — 70 percent, or 360,000 homes in Suffolk, are not sewered — Orient offers an opportunity to serve as a test area for alternative waste treatment options.

Legislators at last week’s general meeting said they are anxious to see what lessons can be learned from studying the “clustering” of certain communities in Orient into smaller treatment facilities. And while there was some hesitation about where the county’s funding for the study is coming from — the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program — the body unanimously supported paying for its share of the research.

“Hopefully what’s learned out there in Orient can be applied to other areas as well,” said Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), chair of the environment, planning and agriculture committee. “Because we can not, nor do we want to, sewer Suffolk County in its entirety.”

Ms. Berry — who has written an opinion piece for The Suffolk Times as well on the negative effects of nitrogen — said that Peconic Green Growth has 15 months to complete the study.

07/02/13 5:11pm
07/02/2013 5:11 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.

Nitrogen pollution in bodies of water on the North Fork is dangerously high, according to local environmentalists who told the Southold Town Board Tuesday that nitrogen levels in the town’s ground and surface waters are the highest in Suffolk County.

Glynis Berry of Peconic Green Growth told board members that her organization is moving forward with plans to implement decentralized wastewater treatment in Orient, Mattituck and on Fishers Island.

“The North Fork has the highest level of nitrogen of any location in Suffolk County if you look on County maps,” Ms. Berry said. “Water is one of our most precious resources.”

Unlike toxic pollutants, nitrogen is not linked to cancer, birth defects or making anyone sick, experts say. It is nitrogen’s ability to make things grow that makes it a problem. When nitrogen gets into streams, ponds, the Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay, it causes an overgrowth of algae, which sucks up oxygen in the water. Without the oxygen they need, fish and shellfish die.

Nitrogen pollution can result from poorly treated septic waste and fertilizer used on farms, lawn, and wineries. Ms. Berry said nitrogen levels are particularly high in Southold Town in part because of its active agriculture industry.

Since February, Peconic Green Growth has been looking at phasing out cesspools in favor of developing an alternative cluster of septic systems that have proved effective in reducing nitrogen contamination in environmentally sensitive areas, Ms. Berry said. She pointed out three she believed were in need of the most mitigation: Fishers Island, Mattituck and Orient.

She told the board she put out a request for proposals for the septic systems in seven areas in Orient. To date those proposals have been cost-effective. However, the design stage of the project alone would cost about $1 million, she said.

Ms. Berry said she’s applying for grants to help residents switch to better septic systems, but said she hopes people would opt to voluntarily upgrade their septic systems.

She suggested the town could raise the funds for the improvement systems by charging residents a $100 annual fee to the town’s wastewater district. Orient residents directly benefiting from the upgrades would be charged $500, she said.

“There seems like there’s a lot of hurdles to get this done,” board member Chris Talbot said.

Ms. Berry stressed the project was in its infancy and she said her next goal is informing the community.

“When people start understanding the issues in their neighborhoods, they realize maybe they have to do something about it,” she said.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell recommended community meetings to get the public involved in the process.

[email protected]

 

02/24/13 8:00am
02/24/2013 8:00 AM

In response to John Betsch’s Feb. 14 guest spot “No need to fight over conservation,” I agree strongly that we should not have pointless divisions and am dismayed that he feels that property rights are being attacked.

The water quality of our aquifers, bays and Sound are not a partisan issue, nor should the community be divided into “camps.” We all need to better understand the conditions that cause the most harm. Then, as individuals and as a community, we need to target solutions appropriate for each particular situation.

Healthy waters safeguard property values, as well as protect the marine and tourist industries that define our local economy and treasured character.

Why do we care about water quality? Our waters are degrading. In addition to pathogens and other contaminants, excess nutrient loading, especially forms of nitrogen, is a significant concern.

The North Fork has the highest levels of excess nitrates in groundwater in Suffolk County. In some areas, over 15 percent of our wells fail to meet safe drinking water standards. It is projected that, with the scope of development allowed by current zoning, these nitrate levels will consistently exceed safe drinking water standards over much of the area.

Nitrogen from the atmosphere accounts for roughly half of the nitrates in our environment. Of the rest, individual human wastewater systems contribute 40 percent of the nitrates directly to groundwater. These contaminants quickly travel to the bays and the Sound, dramatically affecting marine life. The South Shore lost 98 percent of its shellfish industry due to excess nutrient loading. Do we want the same thing to happen here?

What are the wastewater conditions that contribute to poor water quality?

The majority of individual wastewater treatment systems installed before 1973 are most likely cesspools. These open-walled pits allow pathogens and dissolved solids to migrate to the soil and groundwater.

Even with septic systems built to current code, if the depth to groundwater is less than three feet, the wastewater does not have enough time to break down naturally and for filtering to occur.

Temporary wastewater system failure due to flooding can have a significant impact on water quality. Because they are not waterproof, cesspools in flood and surge zones contribute significantly to the resultant pollutions.

Current recommendations call for one acre as the minimum lot size necessary to dilute the concentrated wastewater that comes out of septic systems before it reaches our wells. This means that existing developments on small lots are contributing nitrates to groundwater at an excessive level. Our marine environment is significantly more sensitive and will suffer even at the recommended acreage standards.

The factors that put our drinking and open waters at risk tend to overlap. Because of this, selective improvements can dramatically improve water quality. Peconic Green Growth is currently mapping environmental and land use conditions that impact wastewater quality, as well as groundwater travel patterns. As a result, we will soon be able to identify neighborhoods that can most benefit from improvements. Improvements in these areas will help safeguard our health, our waterways and our property values.

We encourage all homeowners in the five eastern towns to be involved. First, please take the wastewater survey, accessible on the home page of peconicgreengrowth.org. Based on the responses so far, most people think that wastewater is an area of community concern appropriate for public subsidy. Peconic Green Growth has already received grants to help communities develop pilot projects to improve wastewater handling.

While the solutions to issues will vary, if we approach our water problems collectively, we are more likely to find cost-effective, efficient and effective solutions that protect our precious waters. Let’s not attack each other, let’s work together.

Glynis Berry is an architect and executive director of Peconic Green Growth. She lives in Orient.

10/21/12 8:00am
10/21/2012 8:00 AM

Ulf Skogsbergh photo
Ulf Skogsbergh and Hope Sandrow collaborated on work stemming from Ms. Sandrow’s ongoing project ‘Open Air Studio’: Ms. Sandrow collected molted feathers of rare Paduan birds in glass jars.

“Nature Incorporated,” at Art Sites in Riverhead, celebrates the launch of Peconic Green Growth, a not-for-profit organization founded by gallery director Glynis Berry to promote a sustainable environment. The artists invited to participate answered the call with provocative works in media as varied as Mother Nature.

Expect the unexpected.

Like feathers — hundreds of them, sorted by color and preserved in six gleaming bell jars. They’re plumes gathered by Hope Sandrow of Southampton from rare Paduan birds that live and lay their eggs freely in her ongoing project “Open Air Studio,” a habitat this conceptual artist created to protect an endangered species.

These delicate silken specimens are also writ large in two enormous photographs taken by Ulf Skogsbergh in collaboration with his wife, Ms. Sandrow. Each breathtaking image magnifies a single feather; one, caramel-hued, its shaft like polished ivory, arcs across 16 feet of wall space. These grand images capture in a tiny wisp the exquisite beauty, complexity and fragility of life.

Sculptor Robert Oxnam, another artist who allows nature’s original intentions to prevail, coaxes to the surface the expressive life of gnarled weathered tree roots. He finds them embedded in sand along the shoreline near his Southold home and says, “They don’t look like much at first.”

But Mr. Oxnam, a renowned Asia scholar, intuits in wood the same spiritual energy ancient Chinese scholars saw within the archaic stones they prized and collected for meditation.

In the asymmetrical balance of works such as “Echo,” Mr. Oxnam similarly locates in wood the yin and yang in nature that so fascinated Chinese thinkers and philosophers. His intensive process involves cleaning the sand-clotted decaying find, then experimenting with the form to find its physical and visual balance point. He then applies layers of organic milk paint and gently burnishes the surface with wax to reveal its texture. He keeps going until the form says, “You’re done; this is what I have to say.”

Two artists in this show deal directly with environmental issues. Sag Harbor artist Nina Yankowitz’s video projection, “Global Warming Window,” creates a virtual window through which viewers watch a light evening drizzle morph into a hideous torrential storm with driving winds, lightning and horrific sound effects. When the deluge ends, a salmon-pink house basks in the light of day as a waterfall gushes through a first-story window.

But then, along comes Southold eco-artist Lillian Ball to stem Armageddon’s tide. Ms. Ball has achieved national acclaim for her trademarked Waterwash projects. Southold Town residents continue to enjoy the first one that reclaimed the ecosystem at the mouth of Mattituck inlet and created a parklike setting.

For her second Waterwash environment, in the Bronx, Ms. Ball again used permeable material with colorful recycled glass for paved areas. This composite reduces runoff and filters pollutants, preventing them from re-entering precious waterways.

It also makes great sculpture. Ms. Ball, originally a conceptual artist, gathered the excess recycled glass and sand used in the casting process — it would have been discarded — to create “Waterwash Outtakes,” a sparkling abstract work, for this exhibition.

Painter Scott McIntire of Greenport sees nature coexisting with “energy fields.” He explains: “If I’m looking at a flower or a building, I’m taking in the sounds and smells around me, responding to energy from cellphone towers and telephone lines. I want to bring those things into my work.”

In some works energy harnessed by technology appears to respect nature, but in “Considering Global Warming,” it instead portends an apocalyptic flooding of New York City. In this enamel painting, a stingray dominates the sea as the Chrysler Building sinks beneath the blue. Surreal circles of radiant light send out radiating signals, vagrant electronic voices of a once high-tech civilization.

Works on paper include one-of-a-kind lithographs by Andrea Cote of Flanders and watercolor sketches by Hideaki Ariizumi. Ms. Cote, a multimedia and performance artist, created six “Body Print Mandalas” by first making rubber molds of her body parts that she then applied to lithographic plates and printed.

The results suggest abstract Oriental motifs meant to inspire meditation and convey a sense of spiritual oneness and unity. Ms. Cote’s variation on the theme suggests fine embroidery or drawing: an ephemeral presence, delicate and fragile.

Hideaki Ariizumi is Ms. Berry’s husband, an architect and Art Sites partner. This well-deserved first exhibition of his interior and exterior watercolor sketches reveals a practical artist diagramming the solution to a problem yielding to the intuitive abstract artist who finds poetry in the relationship between shape and space. “Intertwining,” for example, presents a loose cubist idea of a house placed within a greenhouse.

This three-layered environment consisting of two architectural forms conceptualizes the integration of an interior set within a landscape and a landscape set within an enclosed environment.

Tracy Heneberger of Brooklyn is well known for his wall-hung assemblages made from resin- and bronze-cast organic materials, including but not limited to sharks’ jaws, sardines, vegetables, antlers, staples and squid.

His “Portraits” show, given a room of its own, features “Oblique,” a wall corsage of bronze mushrooms, and “Bouffant,” a compote of pomegranates resting in a grapevine root. It recalls the tradition of Dutch still-life painting — the kind with juicy apples and oranges, bathed in light and so real-looking it tempts the viewer to pluck a fruit from its frame.

But Mr. Heneberger’s sculptural equivalents, aglow with epoxy and metal, give one pause. This is forbidden fruit, deliberately so, to remind us of the need to protect the vulnerable natural world.

“Nature Incorporated” runs through Dec. 16 and includes “Inspired by Old China: Gardens and Rocks,” a free talk at Art Sites by Mr. Oxnam at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. Reservations are suggested; call 631-591-2401.

‘Nature Incorporated’
On view through Dec. 16 at Art Sites, 651 West Main St., Riverhead. Featuring work by Hideaki Ariizumi, Lillian Ball, Andrea Cote, Scott McIntire, Robert Oxnam, Hope Sandrow and Ulf Skogsbergh, and Nina Yankowitz, and ‘Portraits’ by Tracy Heneberger.

‘Considering Global Warming’ by Scott McIntire

‘Global Warming Window’ by Nina Yankowitz

‘Bouffant’ by Tracy Heneberger

09/24/12 4:00pm
09/24/2012 4:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop during a press conference Monday in the Village of Old Field. Federal and state environmental officials announced that 35 municipalities and community groups in New York and Connecticut will receive grants totaling over $1.6 million

Congressman Tim Bishop and other federal and state officials announced Monday that 35 municipalities and community groups in New York and Connecticut will receive grants totaling over $1.6 million to help fund projects aimed at improving water quality within the Long Island Sound.

The grants are awarded annually through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, a public-private grant program that currently pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wells Fargo.

Officials said the 35 projects will open up water passages for fish, as well as restore 390 acres of fish and wildlife habitat along the waterfront.  Fifteen grants totaling about $913,200 were awarded to groups in New York.

During a press conference in the Village of Old Field, officials announced that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Peconic Green Growth, and the University of Connecticut were among the winners of the grant monies.

Mr. Bishop described partnerships between governmental entities and community groups as “critical” due to the current economic climate.

“The EPA and funding are under assault,” he said. “If we are going to proceed, as we must, we need to see to it that the environment we pass on is at least as good if not better than what we inherited. [To] protect the quality of life here on Long Island, both in our surface waters and our ground water, we’re going to need partnerships.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension received a $128,000 grant to help fund a nearly $330,000 project called “Engaging Vineyards to Implement Water Quality Improvement.” According to the proposal, Cornell Cooperative will develop a state-of-the-art pest and nutrient management pilot program aimed at improving water quality through reducing pesticide use at six wineries.

Becky Wiseman of Cornell said her group is in the process of finalizing a list of wineries that will participate in the program.

“We created this comprehensive idea for the vineyard industry, because it will dovetail nicely with other sustainability projects on Long Island,” she said.

In addition, Cornell Cooperative received a $95,000 grant to help pay for its “Marine Meadows Eelgrass Restoration Program.” The nearly $200,000 project includes organizing 400 volunteers to transplant eelgrass at different locations along the Sound.

The Peconic Green Growth, a not-for-profit organization focused on issues that integrate environment and community, received a $60,000 grant to help fund a nearly $150,000 decentralized wastewater treatment pilot project. The group has proposed that a solution to treating wastewater without the fear of high-density development is a “cluster” approach to sewering as opposed to a running a massive centralized system. The group is in the process of finding communities interested in taking part of a decentralized pilot program through Natural Systems Utilities, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in alternative wastewater systems.

The University of Connecticut received a $40,000 grant to help fund a more than $70,000 project to develop a management plan to remove invasive plants from seven acres at Great Gull Island, which is part of Southold Town, in order increase nesting habitat.

EPA officials said there is a review process associated with each project in order to monitor progress and success rates. Those reviews are expected to take place within the year.

[email protected]

08/15/12 3:13pm
08/15/2012 3:13 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | The North Fork Clean Water Action is sponsoring a community forum tonight in Mattituck.

A newly formed coalition called the North Fork Clean Water Action is sponsoring a community forum tonight in Mattituck to discuss water quality issues.

The NFCWA is comprised of members from Group for the East End, North Fork Environmental Council, North Fork Audubon Society, Peconic Green Growth and Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

The coalition said it hopes to raise awareness about the decline in water quality caused by excessive nitrogen found in ground and surface waters.

“Management of our sewage waste is a huge ecological, human health and financial issue, one that planners, politicians, engineers and environmentalists on Long Island have grappled with – awkwardly and unsuccessfully – for five decades,” Mr. McAllister said in a press release. “Raw sewage from the thousands of residential cesspools is directly responsible for the vast number of polluted water bodies. We must act decisively and without further delay to overhaul outdated sewage regulations to ensure that our local bays remain the healthy centerpiece of life on the East End.”

Tonight’s meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Mattituck-Laurel Library. Subsequent meetings are scheduled for Aug. 22 at the Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport and on Aug. 29 at the Riverhead Free Library.

Pick up the Aug. 23rd issue of The Suffolk Times to read more about this story.

[email protected]