Environment & Nature

New law closes loophole to permanently ban replacement of old, primitive cesspool technology to reduce nitrogen levels in water

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, displays the new county law banning the updating or instillation of primitive cesspools and the technology associated with them, as he’s surrounded by local leaders and environmental group organizers during a press conference. Photo from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office

Repairing old cesspools is now a thing of the past in Suffolk County.

As part of an ongoing effort to improve water quality on Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed into law a ban on installing new cesspools, ending the practice of grandfathering inadequate
sanitary system fixes with the now-primitive technology.

“It marks another historic step forward in our ongoing effort to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution that has degraded water quality in our lakes, bays and harbors, and it is a step that is long overdue,” Bellone said. “It is fairly unusual for the local governments, environmental groups and the region’s largest builders group to agree on the importance of tightening up outdated regulations to protect water quality, but that is exactly what happened in this instance. This inclusive, collaborative approach is making a huge difference in our efforts to reduce decades of nitrogen pollution.”

Cesspools have been identified as primary sources of nitrogen pollution that have degraded water quality throughout Suffolk County, contributing to harmful algae blooms, beach closures and fish kills. The use of cesspools in new construction has been banned in the county since 1973, when a requirement for the addition of a septic tank was added, but the county sanitary code did not require that homeowners add a septic tank when replacing an existing cesspool, making it legal to install a new cesspool to replace an existing one. By now closing this loophole, it will advance the water quality efforts undertaken by the county and set the stage for the evolution away from the use of nonperforming cesspools and septic systems to the use of new, state-of-the-art technologies that reduce nitrogen in residential wastewater by up to 70 percent, according to Bellone.

“With this action, I would like to say that we, as a county, have adopted the policies necessary to adequately address our region’s nitrogen pollution problems, but in reality, this gets us closer to where we should have been in the decades following 1973,” said county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), a co-sponsor of the Article 6 revisions and chairwoman of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee. “I look forward to continuing the process of finally bringing Suffolk County’s sanitary code into the 21st century.”

In addition to banning the installation of new cesspools, the law approved by the Suffolk County Legislature Dec. 5 requires the wastewater industry to provide data regarding system replacement and pumping activities to the Department of Health Services beginning July 1, 2018. It also mandates permits for replacement of existing systems effective July 1, 2019, and requires business properties with grandfathered nonconforming wastewater flows to install nitrogen-reducing advanced systems if making significant changes to the use of the property.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, joined forces with other environmental group leaders in thanking the county for what was a necessary step in eliminating nitrogen from groundwater.

“We can no longer allow inadequately treated sewage to mix with our sole source of drinking water,” she said. “Modernizing our health codes is a commonsense action that is critically needed for water protection.”

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said he was overjoyed by the “huge step,” ending pollution by what he called Suffolk’s No. 1 threat to clean water.

“Now, we’re not just complaining,” he said. “We’re doing something about it.”

For the past three years, Suffolk’s Legislature has instituted a pilot program to test the new technologies, using a lottery system to select homeowners willing to have a donated system installed to demonstrate system performance. Under the pilot program, a total of 14 different technologies have been installed at 39 homes throughout the county. Four have been provisionally approved for use after demonstrating six months of acceptable operating data. As part of continued efforts, a voluntary Septic Improvement Program, the first of its kind in the state, was launched in July 2017 to provide grants and low-interest financing to make the replacement of cesspools and septic systems with new innovative/alternative technologies affordable for homeowners who choose to upgrade their systems. Over the first five months, nearly 850 homeowners have registered for the program, 228 have completed applications and 160 have been awarded grants and are moving toward installation of the new systems.

Suffolk County was the first in the state to apply for funding from New York State’s newly created $75 million Septic System Replacement Fund and will use the funding to expand its efforts to see the new technologies installed throughout the county.

The changes are the first in what is expected to be a series of updates to the county sanitary code over the next several years as county officials consider whether to put in place policies that require new nitrogen-
reducing systems in new construction projects, require installation of the new systems when a cesspool or septic system fails and needs to be replaced, or upon sale of a property. For now, all parties involved are on the same page moving forward, including both a working group comprised of county legislators, town planners and engineers with members of environmental organizations, as well as the Long Island Builders Institute.

“There is more work to do,” said Kevin McDonald, conservation finance and policy director for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “But passage of this bill means less nitrogen pollution in our water, and more resilient, healthy bays and people for generations to come.”

An eroding bluff at Long Beach has been stabilized by constructing a stone seawall at the bluff’s base. The bluff has been terraced to capture material that rolls down from the top and can be planted with vegetation that will help stabilize it. Photo from R. Lawrence Swanson

By R. Lawrence Swanson

Much has been proposed, written, and even implemented, to sustain, armor, adapt, make resilient and conserve the low-lying areas of Long Island’s South Shore since Hurricane Sandy five years ago. That coast is vulnerable to extensive inundation by accelerated sea level rise, the vagaries of storm surges and climate change. Indeed, there are core areas that now flood regularly on the semi-monthly spring tides.

The North Shore of the Island has been largely neglected in the sea level rise/storm surge discussions and planning even though it is equally vulnerable to these processes. The entire geomorphology of the North Shore is subject to change with or without anthropogenic intervention. The challenge is to be able to manage this change so that the environmental services — harbors of refuge, beaches, wetlands, fisheries, aesthetics — provided by the complex, precarious topography of the North Shore remain functionally stable for the region, communities and private interests.

Much of the North Shore is composed of unconsolidated morainal bluffs — many 50 feet or higher — accompanied by down-current cobble barrier beaches. These spits form the small pocket bays and harbors that are the locations of historic settlements. They provide refuge for people and marine ecosystems from the energy of waves and storms. The beautiful pocket bays of Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson, Stony Brook, Northport, Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay are now the cultural centers of the North Shore.

The protective spits that form these bays are fed by erosion of the adjacent coastal bluffs. In order for the pocket bays to be maintained, spits must have a sufficient sediment supply to overcome erosional forces and sea level rise, which is currently increasing at about 1.5 feet a century in Long Island Sound, but undoubtedly will accelerate here and globally. The general process is that the bluffs are undercut at their base or toe by waves and extreme tides. This undercutting will become more severe as sea level rises and we experience greater and longer lasting storm surges in the coming years. The bluffs then slump — about 2 feet per year — creating new beach material, some of which is transported by littoral (near-shore) currents to create and sustain the barrier spits. The small beaches at the toe of the bluffs reduce the wave run-up and thus bluff erosion.

“The North Shore of the Island has been largely neglected in the sea level rise/storm surge discussions and planning even though it is equally vulnerable to these processes.”

— R. Lawrence Swanson

Construction of seawalls for which there is increasing demand along the bluff faces hinders these natural processes. Beaches fronting the bluffs will disappear so that waves will be beating directly on the seawalls. Little material will be available for transport to maintain the barrier spits with rising sea level. Those spits will then be subject to overwashing — perhaps exposing the embayments behind continuously to the open waters of the Sound.

What can be done in the way of resiliency to preserve the character of the North Shore and yet also protect individual properties on the Sound — both those on the cliffs and those on the barrier spits? Is hardening the bluffs and beaches at great expense the answer? Do we let nature take its course? Do residents on the barrier beaches have rights to the sediment of eroding cliffs in much the same way that downstream California claims rights to Colorado River water? If hardening of bluffs is allowed, will there be enough sediment at the toe to maintain a beach to reduce wave run-up?

New York State needs to examine this issue and develop guidance that works for all. Current policies are confusing and perhaps conflicting. This is a regional issue that cannot be solved property by property or even on a town-by-town basis.

With the state of development on the North Shore, some form of intervention or adaptation is probably required; nature cannot be left totally unchecked, given the grim climate projections for this coming century. Extensive hardening of the shoreline is equally unpalatable. There are negative downstream effects from almost all anthropogenic solutions. We need to understand and minimize them. Once started, hardening will eventually result in entombing us, totally eliminating the natural beauty and functionality of the North Shore that we enjoy. Perhaps there are softer forms of resilience that will allow preservation of natural processes yet significantly reduce the anticipated severe erosion from wind, rain, accelerated sea level rise and climate change. We need to find those techniques and implement them consistently.

In the meantime, there are zoning measures that can be practiced that will reduce erosion of these steep coastal faces — establish respectable setbacks, reduce or eliminate clearing, minimize variances resulting in overbuilding and consider downstream impacts of stabilization measures.

Long Island’s low-lying South Shore is at risk to the negative impacts of storm surge, sea level rise and climate change and much attention is being given to it. The North Shore, while seemingly elevated from these impacts, is not. Because its steep coast consists of unconsolidated sediments, it will experience extensive erosion. We need to understand, plan for and implement regional adaptive measures to reduce potential adverse effects to assure resilience of this vulnerable coastal environment.

R. Lawrence Swanson is the interim dean and associate dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Rare species that live in the Shoreham woods could be without a home if the land is cleared for a solar farm. File photo by Kevin Redding

Not seeing the forest for the trees is one thing, but a recent decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to not preserve the forest or trees for the sake of solar installation is causing a major stir among Suffolk County elected officials.

On Dec. 18, Cuomo vetoed a bill co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) that called for the expansion of Long Island’s publicly protected Central Pine Barrens to include more than 1,000 acres in Shoreham and Mastic Woods — “museum quality” stretches of open space that should never be developed by private owners, according to the sponsors. Their legislation aimed to pull the plug on solar plans for the sites.

“The idea of putting solar on these properties is foolish,” Englebright said. “And I hold my solar credentials next to anyone. I am the legislator that sponsored and spearheaded solar more than 20 years ago — these are not good sites for solar.”

A solar farm is still being proposed near the Shoreham nuclear power plant. Currently, there are plans near the Pine Barrens in Mastic for a solar installation. Photo by Kevin Redding

A large chunk of the Shoreham property — made up of approximately 820 acres of undeveloped vegetable land, coastal forest, rolling hills, cliffs and various species of wildlife on the shoreline of Long Island Sound — was almost demolished last year under a proposal by the site’s owners, National Grid, and private developers to knock down trees, level ridges and scarify the property to build a solar farm in the footprint. This “replace green with green” plan garnered much community opposition and was ultimately scrapped by Long Island Power Authority, leading civic association and environmental group members to join Englebright in proposing to preserve the parcel by turning it into a state park. The assemblyman also pledged that while there is a great need to install solar panels as a renewable energy source, there are ways to do so without tampering with primeval forest.

In Cuomo’s veto of the proposed bipartisan legislation to preserve these properties, which had been worked on over the past year and passed overwhelmingly through the two houses of the Legislature in June, he said that it “unnecessarily pits land preservation against renewable energy.” The governor voiced his support of developing solar energy projects on the sites and said the legislation as written prevented environmental growth.

“I am committed to making New York State a national leader in clean energy,” Cuomo said in his veto message. “New York’s Clean Energy Standard mandates 50 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030, to be aggressively phased in over the next several years. … Siting renewable energy projects can be challenging. But it would set a poor precedent to invoke laws meant for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land in order to block projects that should be addressed by local communities or through established state siting or environmental review processes. To sign the bill as drafted would be a step in the wrong direction by moving away from a clean energy future instead of leaning into it.”

Among some of the veto’s supporters were the League of Conservation Voters and Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Jerry Rosengarten, the Mastic site’s owner and managing member of the Middle Island Solar Farm, a proposed 67,000-panel green energy development on a 100-acre parcel in Mastic which would cut down woods near the headwaters of the Forge River, voiced his support of Cuomo’s decision in a statement.

“The idea of putting solar on these properties is foolish. And I hold my solar credentials next to anyone.”

— Steve Englebright

“Gov. Cuomo’s bold leadership today is hope that we will be able to effectively fight Trump-era climate denial and the ‘not in my backyard’ shortsightedness that would otherwise prevent crucial environmental progress at the most critical time,” said Rosengarten, an environmentalist who has been working for six years to place a solar farm on the site, making numerous applications to Long Island Power Authority to obtain power purchase agreements. “We look forward to working with the Town of Brookhaven on the next steps toward realizing a solar farm that we can take great pride in together.”

Englebright took issue with the not-in-my-backyard claims, which were also made by the League of Conservation Voters.

“I find that most unfortunate because it’s a falsehood,” he said. “I don’t represent Shoreham. I live in Setauket, and these sites are nowhere near my district. But, on merit, the properties deserve preservation. To have my sponsorship characterized as NIMBY is not only inaccurate, it’s insulting.”

Those who are against the veto have been championing preservation on both sites, including Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and Andrea Spilka, president of Southampton Town Civic Coalition.

“The land is so valuable, environmentally, that it should be preserved,” Amper said of the Shoreham site in the spring when the legislation was first being pushed.

He added that solar is an important renewable energy in combating global warming, but that panels should be installed on roofs and parking lots rather than ecosystems.

“The reality is that once taken, these forest lands will never be recovered,” LaValle said in a statement outlining his disappointment over the veto. “These lands are particularly critical for the ecology of the Forge River. Destroying the forest and the trees to install solar power just does not make sense at either the Mastic Woods or Shoreham Old Growth Coastal Forest properties. … Currently, over 30 percent of New York state’s solar power is generated on Long Island, the majority of which is produced in my senate district. We can continue to expand the green energies where they will benefit Long Island without damaging the environment as we proceed. Destroying the environment is never the direction I wish to take.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright is putting pressure on manufacturers to keep harmful chemicals out of child products sold in New York. File photo

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a career advocate for the environment who worked tooth and nail alongside Englebright and LaValle to preserve these sites, said vetoing the bill “was the wrong thing to do.”

“[It’s] the reason why Brookhaven Town adopted a solar code that allows for both the preservation of our open space and the development of solar energy,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven Town was committed to preserving these lands, and worked right up to the hours before this veto was issued to provide the developer with up to 60 acres of alternative, town-owned sites that did not require the removal of a single tree.”

Some of these alternative solar sites, Englebright later explained, were the paved parking lot of the State Office Building in Hauppauge and the nearby H. Lee Dennison Building, each of the Brookhaven Highway Department yards and the roofs of numerous local schools. Englebright successfully pushed for solar panels to be placed on the roof of Comsewogue’s elementary school.

“Regrettably, the developer did not respond to these offers, and the governor did not take these alternative sites into account when issuing the veto.” Romaine said. “I thank the sponsors, Sen. Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and their colleagues for their hard work to preserve these ecologically important woodlands, and urge them to re-submit legislation for this in the coming session of the state Legislature.”

Englebright said he plans to reintroduce the legislation in the coming weeks.

“We are going to revisit this, and I hope that the governor keeps an open mind going forward,” he said. “It just requires a little bit of thought to realize that we have a vast amount of the Island where you can place solar panels without cutting down forest. By contrast, there are very few opportunities for preservation on the scale of these two properties. This is a source of some frustration.”

A large nor’easter took form off the coast of Florida and rode up the east coast. Photo from Legislator Kara Hahn's Office

Winter Storm Grayson was touted as a powerful blizzard featuring substantial snowfall and hurricane-force winds, and it has delivered.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for the area beginning 1 a.m. Jan. 4 through 12 a.m. Friday, Jan. 5. The advisory is associated with a large and powerful nor’easter, which took form off the coast of Florida and rode up the east coast.

While the greatest snowfall amounts are expected to be northeast of Long Island, meteorologists expect that we may see as much as 14 inches of snow combined with high winds exceeding 60 MPH that will cause near blizzard conditions.  This storm poses a risk of coastal flooding in the Western Long Island Sound.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has issued a State of Emergency for all of downstate New York. Cuomo also issued a travel advisory from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.

“It is a combination of snow and wind and frigid temperatures,” Cuomo said. “That is a bad mix. I have been driving around myself this morning looking at the conditions — they are terrible, and only going to deteriorate further throughout the day. The wind is going to pick up, and there’s no doubt there is delays on mass transit, and the roads are going to be in poor condition. They’re forecasting three to six inches in the city, up to 12 inches on long Island and six to nine in Westchester. The roads in Westchester are bad. Roads on the Island are bad, and it’s only going to get worse. So schools are closed. If you don’t have to be on the roads, you really shouldn’t be, because it is going to be ugly.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has also issued a State of Emergency in the Town of Brookhaven effective Jan. 4 at 8 a.m. Vehicles that are parked in the street must be moved to driveways or be subject to towing at the owner’s expense. Any abandoned vehicles obstructing access for snowplows and emergency vehicles may also be removed by the town. All residents are urged to stay off the roads unless there is an emergency or if it is absolutely essential to travel.

“Driving is expected to be extremely hazardous due to heavy snow and wind conditions,” Romaine said. “Town snow removal crews will be working throughout the day and night to clear the roads until all are safe and passable.”

As a result of the predictions, many school districts closed school ahead of time.

There are closings at the following schools:

Alternatives For Children – East Setauket

Alternatives for Children Daycare – East Setauket

B.E.S.T. Learning Center – Smithtown

Building Blocks Developmental Preschool – Commack

Calling All Kids, Too – Huntington

Catholic Charities Outpatient Clinic – Commack

Children of America – Smithtown

Children of America – Port Jefferson Station

Church of St. Gerard Majella – Port Jefferson Station

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District

Commack School District

Comsewogue Public Library

Comsewogue School District

Coram Child Care

DDI Adult Day Programs – All Locations

DDI Early Childhood Learning Center – Huntington

DDI School Age Program – Huntington

DDI School Age Program – Smithtown

Day Haven Adult Day Services Program – Port Jefferson

East Northport Jewish Center Religious School

Elwood School District

Elwood’s Little Einsteins

Emma S. Clark Library – Setauket

First Presbyterian Church of Port Jefferson

Gold Medal Gymnastics Center Centereach

Gold Medal Gymnastics Center Huntington

Gold Medal Gymnastics Center Rocky Point

Gold Medal Gymnastics Centers Smithtown

Grace Lane Kindergarten – Coram

Happy Time Preschool – Smithtown

Harbor Country Day School – St. James

Harborfields Central School District

Hauppauge Public Library

Hauppauge Public Library

Holy Family Regional School – Commack

Humpty Dumpty Day Nursery – Greenlawn

Huntington Montessori

Huntington Public Library

Huntington School District

Infant Jesus R.C. Church Religious Ed – Port Jefferson

Ivy League School – Smithtown

JKL Montessori School – Commack

Kiddie Academy – East Setauket

Kiddie Academy – Greenlawn

Kiddie Academy of Miller Place

Kiddie Care Early Learning Center – Commack

Kids of Miller Place

Kids of Mount Sinai

Kings Park School District

LI School for the Gifted – Huntington Station

Little Flower Union Free School District – Wading River

Little Rascals Child Care – Miller Place

Long Island Bone & Joint – Port Jefferson

Love of Learning Montessori School – Centerport

Magic Circle Nursery School – East Northport

Marion Kenney Day Care Center – Wading River

Martin C. Barell School- Commack

Messiah Preschool & Day Care – Setauket

Middle Country School District

Miller Place School District

Miss Barbara’s Preschool – Centereach

Miss Dawn’s Child Care Center – Huntington

Miss Mella’s Footsteps to Learning – Coram

NSSA – Adult Services – Commack

Noah’s Ark Day Care Center – Port Jefferson

North Shore Jewish Center – Port Jefferson Station

North Shore Montessori School – Stony Brook

Northport – East Northport Public Library

Northport / East Northport School District

Options for Community Living Inc. – Smithtown

Our Lady of Wisdom Regional – Port Jefferson

Our Savior New American School – Centereach

Planet Kids – Coram

Port Jefferson Free Library

Port Jefferson School District

Primarily 2’s and 3’s – Mount Sinai

Prime Time Preschool – Kings Park

Pumpkin Patch Day Nursery – Commack

Rainbow Chimes – Huntington

Reach for the Stars Pre – School – Ridge

Rocky Point School District

STEP Preschool – Smithtown

Saf-T-Swim – Commack

Saf-T-Swim – Coram

Sappo School – Commack

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown Christian Early Learning Center

Smithtown Christian School

Smithtown Special Library District

South Huntington School District

St. Anselm’s Episcopal Nursery School – Shoreham

St. Anthony of Padua Religious Ed – East Northport

St. Anthony’s High School – South Huntington

St. Frances Cabrini Religious Ed – Coram

St. James Lutheran Preschool – St. James

St. James Religious Ed – Setauket

St. Joseph’s Religious Ed – Kings Park

St. Louis de Monfort Religious Education – Sound Beach

St. Louis de Montfort Preschool – Sound Beach

St. Margaret of Scotland Church – Selden

St. Mark’s Religious Formation Program – Shoreham

St. Patrick School – Smithtown

St. Philip Neri Religious Ed – Northport

Step by Step Montessori – Miller Place

Stony Brook Child Care Services

Stony Brook Gynecology & Obstetrics – Rocky Point

Stony Brook Gynecology & Obstetrics – Setauket

Stony Brook Kidney Center – East Setauket

Stony Brook University – Psychological Ctr / Psych B Bldg. – Stony Brook

Stony Brook University

Stony Brook Urology – East Setauket & Commack

Sts. Philip and James Religious Education – St. James

Sts. Philip and James School – St. James

Suffolk County Community College – Selden

Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center – Commack

Sunshine Alternative Education & Prevention Center – Port Jefferson

Temple Beth El Religious School – Huntington

Temple Isaiah Religious School – Stony Brook

Tender Hearts Preschool – Mount Sinai

The Childrens Community HEAD START Program – Port Jefferson

The Day Care Center at Ivy League – Smithtown

The Knox School – St. James

The Laurel Hill School – East Setuket

The Learning Center – Huntington

The Learning Experience – Centereach

The Learning Experience – Mount Sinai

The Learning Experience – Northport

The Learning Experience -Rocky Point

The Learning Experience – Stony Brook

The Village Preschool – Northport

Three Village Church – East Setauket

Three Village Schools – Stony Brook

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church – Rocky Point

Trinity Regional School – East Northport

Tutor Time of Nesconset – Smithtown

UCP – Suffolk – Hauppauge

UCP Suffolk – The Children’s Center – Commack

United Methodist Nursery School – Huntington

Wesleyan School – Smithtown

West Hills Montessori – Huntington

Wisdom Tree Preschool – Miller Place

Work of Heart Preschool – South Huntington

Please monitor local media coverage or the National Weather Service for up-to-date weather forecasts and notifications. For your safety and the safety of emergency responders, please adhere to all travel restrictions and advisories that may be issued.

For you convenience, listed are some important emergency and not-emergency contact numbers to help you get through the storm should you need assistance:

PSEGLI Outages – 800-490-0075

Police Emergency – 911*

Police Non-emergency – (631) 852-2677, (631-852-COPS)

Town of Brookhaven Highway Department – (631) 451-9200**

Suffolk County Department of Public Works – (631) 852-4070***

*Please do not call 911 or other emergency telephone lines unless you are in need of assistance with an immediate physical or medical emergency.

**Responsible for all roads in the district (outside of incorporated villages) except County Road 97 and New York State Routes 112, 25A and 347.

***For emergency issues on county roads such as Nicolls Road (CR 97) only.

Additional information, notifications and details may be posted by Suffolk County’s Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services as the storm develops and impacts the area.  Click here to visit the department’s information page.

Many living around Setauket Harbor for years have complained about waterfowl hunters who they feel practice their sport too close to homes and residents enjoying the area. Photo from End Duck Hunting in Setauket Harbor

Residents in the vicinity of Setauket Harbor are crying “fowl” when it comes to the shooting of ducks and geese on the waterway and are hoping to change local hunting laws.

Early in December, a post on the Facebook page Three Village Parents generated a lot of buzz. Many residents near Setauket Harbor reported seeing hunters and hearing shotguns in the area. One resident commented that she had seen pellet holes in her window, while another said she changes her jogging route during hunting season, which runs until Jan. 28 for ducks and Feb. 26 for geese.

Waterfowl hunting is legal in the state. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency promotes it as both a recreational sport and wildlife management tool. Those wishing to hunt waterfowl can do so during open seasons as long as they possess a valid hunting license, migratory bird stamp and Harvest Information Program number. Despite the laws, local residents aren’t happy with the early morning noises and feel the nearby hunting is a threat to their safety.

Tami Robitsek said she was sitting in her car the morning of Nov. 15 at Shore Road beach in East Setauket when she heard a loud gunshot and noticed two men in camouflage with shotguns hiding in the reeds on the beach. Robitsek said she felt it posed a dangerous situation as she witnessed several people walking and running along the road, a school bus filled with children, a man working on his boat moored off the shore and an elderly woman crying just off the road after hearing the shots.

Hunters spotted by a resident on View Road. Photo from End Duck Hunting in Setauket Harbor

“After this jarring experience, I am committed to working to end duck hunting in Setauket Harbor,” Robitsek said.

The East Setauket resident is rallying her neighbors and recently created the Facebook group, End Duck Hunting in Setauket Harbor, which has gained 70 members. She said community people have expressed support for a no-discharge ordinance in Setauket due to safety concerns and have discovered that neighboring Village of Poquott already has a no-discharge ordinance, which prevents the discharging of firearms outside official duties.

“Given the historical significance of this waterway, the delicate ecosystem, waterfowl nesting, dense population on all sides of the harbor and so on, it is clear to me that Setauket Harbor and its area residents deserve to be protected from hunting of all kinds,” Robitsek said.

Animal rescue and activist Joanne Tamburro, who has worked with Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to rescuing abused animals, has offered her support to organize residents and approach local elected officials to initiate the no-discharge order. The 20-year Setauket resident said while residents have complained in the past, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

“I’m against hunting, but I don’t preach,” Tamburro said. “However, if you want to hunt, not by me. I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to be a part of it and don’t try to convince me that it helps the environment.”

As an animal activist, Tamburro is concerned for the birds, too.

“What about these poor animals that are getting shot, and they’re walking around with a broken wing,” she said.

Chris Spies, a hunter from Holbrook who works in Stony Brook, said he has had negative interactions in the past with residents.

“I understand that people are upset getting woken up early, I completely understand,” he said. “However, I also get up early in the morning with an expectation to go out and enjoy myself in my pursuit of a lawful activity and not be accosted in the field with people cursing me out, taking photographs of me, videotaping me, banging pots and pans and calling the police on me multiple times.”

He said some residents don’t mind though and even come out to talk to him.

“It is clear to me that Setauket Harbor and its area residents deserve to be protected from hunting of all kinds.”

— Tami Robitsek

Spies said residents should be aware that while standard hunting laws state that shooting must be done 500 feet from an occupied residence, that rule is suspended while waterfowl hunting. According to the DEC’s website, it is lawful to discharge a shotgun over water within 500 feet of a dwelling, public structure or person as long as no buildings or people are in the line of discharge.

The hunter said residents should know that duck hunters don’t use bullets but shot shells, which shoot many BBs in a shot string for more effective hunting while not posing safety risks beyond 70 yards or so.

“Shooting a single projectile at a flying bird would be very ineffective at harvesting them, as well as dangerous further down range,” he said.

He also has a few tips for his fellow sportsmen. Spies said before hunters head out, they should visit gis3.suffolkcountyny.gov/gisviewer to view a county map that shows property lines and ownership to ensure that they are not trespassing.

While out shooting, Spies suggests that when seeing others, hunters should stop shooting, put down their guns and take off their hats. He said they should let their decoys work in their favor and wait until the ducks are in an effective range, typically under 30 yards, which would avoid unnecessary shots. He suggests one shot per bird or less as random shooting annoys nearby residents and scares the birds.

“I’m a big proponent of hunters being ethical and part of the ethics of hunting is not taking indiscriminate shots,” he said.

Robitsek and Tamburro said while they face a difficult road in fighting the state law that allows hunting, they are prepared for the battle with plans to solicit the help of local lawmakers and stage protests if necessary.

“It’s ridiculous to allow any type of hunting in and around this area, with the amount of homes we have here,” Tamburro said.

Mike Voigt joins Brookhaven’s Brew to Moo program to continue recyclying brewing waste for good causes

Rocky Point Artisan Brewers owners Mike Voigt and Donavan Hall partnered with Town of Brookhaven to send spent grains to be recycled at local farms. Photo from Mike Voigt

Rescue animals at Double D Bar Ranch can thank Rocky Point Artisan Brewers for their full bellies.

The brewery has entered into a partnership with Town of Brookhaven, called Brew to Moo, in which spent grains are sent to feed abused or unwanted farm animals at the Manorville ranch.

“I think the program is wonderful,” said 51-year-old Mike Voigt, the owner of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, which he founded in 2008 with Donavan Hall. “I’d like to get involved and actually go see the animals. It’s terrible to throw out the grains, so to see it get put to good use is fulfilling.”

Spent grains from Rocky Point Artisan Brewers waiting for a Town of Brookhaven pickup. Photo by Mike Voigt

A byproduct of brewing is literally tons of spent grains left behind from hops, barley, oats or whatever is used to make the beer, which in many cases gets tossed in the trash. While the grains have reduced caloric content, they can provide protein and fiber that can supplement corn for livestock feed.

Voigt, who said he’s typically handed over his grains to friends whenever needed, heard about the program through Port Jeff Brewing Company, and reached out to the town to get involved. Rocky Point Artisan Brewers is now the third local brewery or distillery to link with the town in its efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, along with the Port Jeff brewery and BrickHouse Brewery in Patchogue, which was the first to get involved. Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he expects Patchogue’s Blue Point Brewing Company to get involved as the fourth partner once the organization has moved into its new
headquarters on Main Street at what was formerly Briarcliffe College.

“Breweries spend a lot of money getting rid of the leftover grains, because it is now garbage, but we’re in the interest of looking for ways that we can reduce our waste, recycle it, and reuse that which we recycle,” Romaine said. “We’re picking up the spent grains that breweries would typically have to pay a carter to take away, and then we’re taking that spent grain to farms to feed the animals. It’s a way to continue to promote reusing and recycling. We shouldn’t be a throw away society.”

Since the program launched in August 2017, approximately 50 tons of spent grains have been fed to the rescue animals at Double D Bar Ranch on Wading River Road.

“Breweries spend a lot of money getting rid of the leftover grains, because it is now garbage, but we’re in the interest of looking for ways that we can reduce our waste, recycle it, and reuse that which we recycle.”

— Ed Romaine

Rich Devoe, the operator of the ranch, which is a nonprofit organization, said the roughly 400 animals living at the ranch never go hungry, but having a steady source of food from the two breweries will allow him to substantially shrink the food bill. Typically, he spends $175,000 a year on feed. Now, Devoe will be able to save $100,000 of that, and spend its donations and money from his own pocket elsewhere, like on barn repairs and fencing. He called the arrangement “great” and “very important.”

“We’ve even had breweries from outside of the town calling us asking to get involved that we’ve had to turn away,” Romaine said. “Seeing what owners like Mike Voigt are doing is tremendous. This is a model that responsible business will want to enter into with the town.”

Voigt has made good use of the brewery’s spent grains since before Brew to Moo came about. The owner provided more than 1.8 tons to Hamlet Organic Garden in Brookhaven to be composted.

The 21-year Rocky Point resident has been a seller at the Rocky Point Farmer’s Market since its inception in 2012, which is where he met Sean Pilger, a manager at the garden since 2006. Voigt sells most of his beer at the farmer’s market because he said he wants to maintain a local feel.

“The beer doesn’t leave Long Island,” he said. “I like to sell it locally.”

Romaine said he sees the new partnership as enhancing nature rather than disrupting it. Voigt said he is hoping other businesses can continue to get behind that mantra.

“Who wants to throw it out?” he said of the spent grains. “I’m rather small, but seeing this go anywhere instead of in the garbage is a good thing. It takes no more effort to put it in a can and have the town pick it up than it takes to throw it out. I wish the program was larger — it would make sense — and I hope more breweries on the Island get involved.”

Stock photo

Suffolk County shoppers, get your nickels ready.

In an effort to encourage residents to shop with reusable bags instead of plastic and paper “carryout” bags that harm the environment, the Suffolk County Legislature is rolling out a 5 cent fee on all disposable bags at a variety of retail establishments, from supermarkets to department stores beginning Jan. 1.

The new law, which was officially passed by the Legislature in September 2016, applies only to the single-use plastic or paper bags provided by cashiers at the end of a sale and used to carry goods from the store. There won’t be a fee, however, on bags found in produce sections for fruits and vegetables, frozen foods or on bags by pharmacies to carry prescription drugs, according to the law.

Cashiers are required to add the total fees to a customer’s receipt based on how many bags are used. Residents can avoid the fee by either buying a reusable bag — ones made of cloth or canvas, which are available in many retail stores — or shopping with a bag from home.

“Hopefully people will say ‘I’m not paying 5 cents’ and go with the other options,” said Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), who wrote the legislation to reduce the influx of plastic bag waste that gets trapped in trees, blocks storm drains and causes significant damage to water supplies and wildlife. “We’re hoping to change behaviors. While we won’t change everyone’s, this will change a lot of people’s and that can make a big difference. I think once people start to not use the plastic bags, they’re not going to really miss them.”

Spencer’s bill began in March 2016 as a ban on all single-use plastic bags, piggybacking off an initiative adopted by the Town of Southampton, but it didn’t receive enough support. This revised bill was co-sponsored and pushed by five legislators, including Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), and 140 out of 150 residents who weighed in on the initiative during a public hearing testimony.

As of Jan. 1, shoppers will be paying for paper and plastic bags at most retail stores, encouraging others to use reusable bags. Stock photo

The legislators also worked alongside a Suffolk County plastic bag working group, which consists of local scientists, educators, environmentalists, business people and government employees.

“We have to curtail the use of plastic bags,” Krupski said. “They’re everywhere. I would encourage people not to pay the fee. It’s all just a matter of changing your habits and keeping a shopping bag in your vehicle to have it at the ready. It’ll take time for people to get used to that, but like anything else, people will get used to it.”

A 5 cent fee on plastic and paper bags was adopted in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and the accumulated nickels have contributed a total $10 million to the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund, as of 2015.

As mandated by New York State, however, the fees collected in this bill will be retained by the stores. Not being able to apply the collection to an environmental cause convinced a Democratic legislator not to support the law.

“That 5 cent charge should go back into the environment,” said Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who voted “No.” “Instead, the fees are going back into the pockets of the stores. The legislation needed work.”

Anker also said she received outcry from constituents over the concept of fees.

“A lot of the community, especially the senior population, did not want to pay extra for the plastic bags,” she said. “But I will say, plastic is a really harsh environmental pollutant.”

Spencer said he plans to revisit the legislation after a year to evaluate the financial impact it’s having and ask the state to allow funds to be used for environmental purposes.

“It would be great to do that, but only the state has that ability,” Spencer said. “The state may make that decision.”

Jay Peltz, general counsel and vice president of government relations at Food Industry Alliance, which represents 800 state supermarket chains, convenience stores and wholesalers, including Stop & Shop and King Kullen, which will be charging the fees, said it’s a current law where everybody wins.

“It will help the environment and it will help the stores,” he said. “It’s a thoughtful, productive law and is the only way to both reduce plastic bag distribution while incentivizing people to increase their use of reusable bags.”

He added that the fees may be used to help pay for higher minimum wages expected to be put in place in the coming year, but store owners are still weighing the options.


Survey: Shoppers still prefer plastic
By Desirée Keegan

A local survey conducted shows that just 5 percent of shoppers bring reusable bags.

The finding, coming ahead of a 2018 Suffolk County law banning the free use of plastic and paper bags at a vast majority of retail stores, was concluded after students from Northport, Brentwood, Huntington, Smithtown, East Islip and North Babylon, with member of St. Joseph’s College, surveyed 11,395 shoppers in November and December, in front of grocery stores, convenience stores and a pharmacies.

New Suffolk County environmental law prohibits plastic and paper bags in favor of eco-friendly reusable ones. Stock photo

The polling, organized by a county-created task force to help educate the public about the bill, found 71 percent of individuals use plastic bags, while the balance use paper, a combination, or no bag.

The survey will be repeated next year to analyze the effect of the law on consumer behavior, according to
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. She said she hopes between 60 and 70 percent of residents are bringing reusable bags by next year.

“Reducing litter, marine pollution and saving our oceans are worth changing our habits,” Esposito said.

While plastic bags drew the ire of environmentalists and lawmakers, the law also requires stores to charge for paper bags, as well as thicker “reusable” plastic bags, to prevent stores from circumventing the law, Spencer said.

County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), the bill’s primary sponsor, said county residents should contact his office at 631-854-4500 for a reusable bag, especially if you cannot afford one.

“If you need a reusable bag, come see me,” Spencer said, adding he bought 1,000 reusable bags to give away.

A steam shovel fills a waiting dump truck to distribute sand along West Meadow Beach. By Donna Newman

Winter strolls along West Meadow Beach have been put on hold to avoid future environmental and boating problems.

Since Dec. 4, the Town of Brookhaven beach and Trustees Road in Stony Brook have been closed to the public. The town’s parks  department made the decision to accommodate an ongoing Suffolk County dredging project.

“It was the determination of the law and parks departments to close the beach due to safety and liability issues,” town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “Resident safety is paramount to the town.”

While the dredging project is in effect, multiple trucks and dredging equipment will be accessing the beach, which could potentially cause dangerous situations for visitors if the beach remained open.

Dredging is nothing new for Long Island waterways, according to Larry Swanson, interim dean and associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook University. The sediment dredged from the depths of waterways is added to beaches to nourish the shorelines, which in turn helps to slow down erosion and protects structures from rising sea levels and storm surges. He said dredging projects are ideally done in the winter to protect marine organisms, which aren’t as active during the season as they are in warmer months. He said the currents are typically strong where the county is dredging, which most likely will produce clean sand and gravel.

Swanson said Long Beach in Smithtown, which is located slightly west of the Stony Brook beach and regularly needs dredging material, is progressing to the east/northeast about 1 yard per year.

“What that does as it progresses, it tends to cause the currents to eat into West Meadow Beach,” he said. “So when that happens, sometimes there’s a cut that forms in West Meadow Beach.”

The dean said it is ideal to fill up the cut so it doesn’t keep eroding, as there’s a possibility in 20 years that it could break into West Meadow creek.

“The preservation of beaches as we know them is somewhat depending upon this source of dredge material,” Swanson said.

The dean said dredging is done for other reasons, too.

“The channel coming into Stony Brook Harbor fills up to the point where the low water depth is no more than 1 or 2 feet, and most boats that enter Stony Brook Harbor have a draft in excess of 1 or 2 feet and so they hit bottom,” Swanson said. “People don’t want to damage their boats.”

West Meadow Beach is expected to reopen on or about Jan. 1, according to a statement from Brookhaven Town.

The Shoreham power plant on North Country Road provides peak power to the community and payments in lieu of taxes to the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Photo from Jason White

A Brookhaven organization recently saved energy in the most literal sense, and a reliable revenue stream too.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA) announced Nov. 27 it prevented the shutdown of an electric-generating plant in Shoreham, which provides peak power to the community and is expected to contribute $852,000 in property taxes or payments in lieu of taxes, commonly known as PILOTs, to the Shoreham-Wading River school district this year.

Brookhaven’s business arm has entered into a new, 20-year PILOT agreement with owners of the 90 megawatt, jet-fueled facility located on 10 acres of land on North Country Road, leased by the Long Island Power Authority. The facility’s previous PILOT and power purchase agreement between LIPA and Brookhaven expired this past August after 15 years.

In the proposal for the PILOT, which became the adopted policy when it was approved by the IDA in January 2017, projected gradual benefits range from $1.2 million in its first year to $1.7 million in its 20th.

The partnership began in September 2016 when members of J-Power USA — owners of the facility since 2010 — realized the expired pact would bring about a 33 percent reduction in revenue and a 50 percent reduction in economic benefits. The members were also told by LIPA representatives that the nonprofit would not be involved in negotiating a new PILOT.

“We wanted to see if Brookhaven would be able to offer a new PILOT that would  allow us to remain financially viable and our agreement has removed that big uncertainty,” said Jason White, director of asset management at the J-Power Shoreham branch. “Our facility uses General Electric combustion
turbines and while it doesn’t operate a lot, it’s important to the electric grid for stability purposes. It’s maintained so that it can respond very quickly if it’s called upon.”

White said although there had to be consideration to disassemble the power plant and move off Long Island in the case an agreement couldn’t be reached, it wouldn’t be a simple process, and the facility’s six
employees live close by.

“Our preference all along was to continue to operate the plant site and to continue to be a contributor to the local community,” White said.

By securing the power plant’s place in Shoreham, revenue is boosted for the school district, which relies heavily on it as a source of both energy and property tax revenue.

“I am pleased that we have been able to close on this new agreement with J-Power,” said Frederick Braun, chairman of the IDA. “Had we been unable to keep this plant from moving off Long Island with this new agreement, the Shoreham School District and other taxing jurisdictions would receive no payments at all, resulting in an even larger loss to those taxing jurisdictions.

The school district, which included the finalization of $852,000 in PILOT revenue in its Revised and Lowered Expenditure Budget & Tax Levy in October, approved the agreement in a resolution during a board meeting last Jan. 10.

“Be it resolved that the Board of Education of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District supports the proposed financial assistance contemplated by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency in connection with the J-Power Peaker Plant,” the letter read.

Lisa Mulligan, the IDA’s chief executive officer, said she had been in contact with the district’s board of education since meetings began with J-Power “as they were the most impacted by this.”

“We didn’t want to pursue something if they were not interested in it,” Mulligan said. “But the board wrote to us and told us they were … I think it’s important to bring money into the school district and also provide this power to residents when it’s needed.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, center, and representatives from community groups, who work to improve the Long Island Sound, attend a press conference Dec. 4 announcing the distribution of $2.04 million in grant funds. Photo by Kevin Redding

The future of Long Island Sound is in very capable, and now well funded, hands.

Federal and state officials gathered Dec. 4 in East Setauket to officially announce $2.04 million in grants to support 31 environmental projects by local governments and community groups mostly in New York State and Connecticut actively working to restore the health and ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Of the 15 New York-based projects — totaling $1.05 million in grants — nine of them are taking place across Long Island, including Salonga Wetland Advocates Network in Fort Salonga and Citizens Campaign Fund for the Environment in Huntington, Smithtown and Riverhead. 

This year’s recipients of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund — a collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation  — were encouraged by a panel of guest speakers to continue efforts to monitor and improve water quality; upgrade on site septic systems for homeowners; protect vital habitats throughout the watershed; and engage other residents to protect the 110-mile estuary.

“This fund is supporting and celebrating real-life solutions — grassroots-based solutions — that make a difference in our quality of life, in our quality of environment and the overall fabric of our community,” said Peter Lopez, the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to a room of grant recipients at the Childs Mansion on Shore Drive in East Setauket, overlooking the Sound. “We have this amazing resource in our backyard and we have to support it.”

“It’s your spirit and hard work that got us to this point. It’s important we’re making our impact right now.”

— Lee Zeldin

The Sound, which was designated an estuary of national significance in the 1980s, supports an estimated 81,000 jobs and activities surrounding it such as boating, fishing and recreational tourism, which generates around $9 billion a year for the region.

Lopez stressed that community involvement is the key to its perseverance in the future. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who has long fought for federal funding and support for the estuary, was in full agreement.

“Since I got to Congress at the beginning of 2015, I’ve been watching all of you and your advocacy is why we’re here today,” Zeldin said.

The congressman addressed members of the crowd whose phone calls, emails, social media blasts and trips to Washington, D.C., he said served to mobilize elected officials around the importance of the Sound and its watershed and boost the funding of the Long Island Sound program to $8 million in May.

“I just want to say a huge thank you for what you do,” he said. “It’s your spirit and hard work that got us to this point. It’s important we’re making our impact right now. What will be our legacy in these years to ensure the water quality, quality of life, economy and environment of Long Island Sound is preserved and protected? Because of all of you, the legacy will be that in 2017, we all gathered to celebrate more than doubling the funding for [Long Island Sound].”

The LISFF was started in 2005 by the Long Island Sound Study and has since invested $17 million in 380 projects, giving way to the opening of 157 miles of rivers and streams for fish passage and restoring more than 1,000 acres of critical habitat, according to Amanda Bassow, the Northeast region director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

This year’s grants will reach more than 870,000 residents through environmental and conservation education programs, and will be matched by $3.3 million from its recipients. In New York, the $1.05 million in grant funds will be matched with $2.58 million from the grantees, resulting in $3.63 million in community conservation.

One of the grantees, Mike Kaufman of Phillips Mill Pond Dam fish passage project in Smithtown, plans to restore the native migratory fish runs from Long Island Sound to the Nissequogue River for the first time in 300 years.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle,” Kaufman said of the grant. “It’s an incredible, historic opportunity. We’re reversing 300 years of habitat destruction and these grants enable us to engineer the restoration.”

Social

4,854FansLike
5Subscribers+1
1,015FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe