03/07/15 8:00am
03/07/2015 8:00 AM
A sandbar juts into Peconic Bay at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A sandbar juts into Peconic Bay at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Compared to people living in western Long Island, those on the East End are in a better position to recognize the connection between the environment and the economy. The region also has a proven track record when it comes to protecting a way of life. Case in point: the Community Preservation Fund, which uses a tax on local real estate transactions to preserve farmland and open space.  (more…)

02/27/15 10:00am
02/27/2015 10:00 AM
A sandbar juts into Peconic Bay at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A sandbar juts into Peconic Bay at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The issue of antiquated or failing septic systems compromising the quality of the East End’s ground and surface waters is once again taking center stage as the region presses for help from Albany to deal with polluted waters.  (more…)

01/30/14 7:00am
01/30/2014 7:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Kimogener Point on the Bay off New Suffolk Avenue Monday evening.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Kimogener Point on the Bay off New Suffolk Avenue last week.

To the editor:

I remember when platinum-based catalytic converters were first proposed. Comments were split between “it will bankrupt the automakers” and “no one will be able to afford new cars.” The same thing happened each time substantial improvements were mandated to reduce auto pollution and improve fuel economy. Somehow, we’re all driving much cleaner and more efficient cars. (more…)

10/31/13 10:27am
10/31/2013 10:27 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wildwood State Park in Wading River.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wildwood State Park in Wading River.

New York State Parks Department officials say septic systems at five state parks – including Wildwood State Park in Wading River – are not in compliance with current septic treatment standards and will be upgraded.

The announcement follow the Peconic Baykeeper’s notice that it intends to sue the parks department in federal court for using outdated systems at those same parks because the systems violate the U.S. Clean Water Act

“State parks began its review of the septic systems immediately after becoming aware of the allegations made by Peconic Baykeeper,” said Dan Keefe, a department spokesman.

Get the news to come to you. Follow the Suffolk Times on Facebook and Twitter.

Parks officials announced last Monday that the department has entered into a consent order, or agreement, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to update 30 septic systems at the parks, which were found to be outdated and no longer compliant with current septic treatment standards.

The cost of the updates, which will include four of 20 septic systems at the Wading River park, is at more than $5 million, Mr. Keefe said.

The agreement also includes a $250,000 project to install nitrogen reduction technology at one of the park locations, according to a parks department press release.

On July 16, Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister announced his intent to sue the state for violating the Clean Water Act by failing to have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which are aimed at controlling the amount of pollutants entering the nation’s surface waters.

According to the July 16 legal notice, Wildwood park has been utilizing Class V large-capacity cesspools, which were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April 2005 to protect drinking water.

Federal law requires at least 90 days’ advance notice of a lawsuit, so the action against the parks department could not be filed until now, Mr. McAllister said.

“We’re not going away. Our plan is to go forward with this,” he told this newspaper.

“The consent order does not go far enough – it doesn’t address the nitrogen loading coming from these systems,” Mr. McAllister said. “Some 1,000 toilet flushes are entering the groundwater from those facilities each day … it doesn’t sound as though they are going to make the commitment to real upgrades which would denitrify the wastewater.”

Mr. McAllister said he and attorney Reed Super plan to file the lawsuit sometime next week.

“We want to see denitrification systems. If they are going to be ripping these things out of the ground, it’s an opportunity to do the right thing. New York State should be leading the way with respect to more advanced wastewater treatment,” he said. “Their version of upgraded is not our version.”

The actions Peconic Baykeeper has filed against the state DEC and parks department are being undertaken in partnership with Long Island Soundkeeper, based in Connecticut.

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]