Environment & Nature

The failing jetties have been cited as a contributor to erosion at Port Jefferson Village's East Beach

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Alex Petroski

Officials believe one of the few things that stands in the way of further erosion of Port Jefferson Village’s East Beach, which sits on the Long Island Sound at the end of Village Beach Road, are jetties, or rock pilings meant to protect the shoreline, at the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor, just east of the Port Jeff beach. With the two town-owned structures in need of restoration, Brookhaven is looking for some additional funding.

The Brookhaven Town board voted unanimously at a July 12 meeting to submit grant applications to the New York State Green Innovations Grant Program and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for additional money to work on the jetty reconstruction project.

The $8.6 million jetty project has been in the works for several years, but only truly got underway in 2016. The town is seeking reimbursement of about $1.3 million through the grants. The resulting $7.3 million net cost would be financed through an existing $3 million Dormitory Authority of the State of New York grant, originally provided through New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), and $4.3 million from a previous town bond resolution.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the old east and west jetties have holes from rocks collapsing, which allows sand to stream through. Age has not been kind to either structure, and the seaward sides of both jetties remain submerged at high tide. Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy caused further damage to the jetties over subsequent years.

With the money the town already has along with these new grant bids, Bonner said she is optimistic reconstruction of the jetties will start some time in 2019.

“Those holes create a current at high tide that allows sand to get through,” Bonner said. “We are completely committed to taking all the necessary steps to make sure this gets done right.”

Brookhaven is the only Long Island municipality in charge of jetties, as the Army Corps of Engineers maintains all others, according to Bonner.

Brookhaven has also hired Melville-based Nelson & Pope Engineers & Land Surveyor, PLLC to at a cost of $151,800 for help in the Mount Sinai Harbor dredging project. The dredging will widen the inlet and relieve the pressure of the water hitting the jetties at high tide, according to Bonner. Widening the inlet will help flush out Mount Sinai Harbor, which would lead to cleaner water for both fish living in the harbor and the town’s shellfish at its mariculture facility.

The failing jetties have had an impact on the shoreline of Port Jeff Village. The bottom 15 feet of the bluff along East Beach had fallen 260 feet west of the rock revetment, according to a 2016 letter from Stony Brook-based GEI Consultants, a privately-owned consulting firm contracted by the village, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion. GEI also stated that repairs to the jetties should be the first step in alleviating erosion issues.

Bonner said some of the preliminary work already done has helped relieve the flow of water coming into the inlet and through the jetties, but until the real reconstruction starts the erosion of the local beach remains a problem.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said Mount Sinai Harbor contributes millions of dollars to community through tourism.

“It’s a very special harbor,” Anker said. “Repairing the channel should be a primary concern.”

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

By Melissa Arnold

Artie Weingartner

For as long as Artie Weingartner has taken photos, his focus has always been on others.

Weingartner, who lives in Lake Ronkonkoma, is a fixture at local high school sporting events. He has faithfully chronicled the work of the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society and is the official photographer for the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

Now, for the month of July, the focus is on him as Sachem Public Library presents an exhibit featuring a wide array of Weingartner’s photos in a collection titled Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma.

It’s an odd feeling for 58-year-old Weingartner, who admits it took a serious push from friends and loved ones to move forward with the exhibit. But nothing makes him happier than bringing joy to the people who see his photos.

“I like seeing people’s reactions to pictures and hearing their feedback — it really makes me feel good, and it makes me want to do it more. I love the rush of satisfaction that comes with it. I guess you could say I’m addicted to it,” he laughed.

Lake Ronkonkoma on a fall day

While photography has piqued his interest for decades, it took a long time for Weingartner to really find his niche. His father bought him his first camera, a simple Kodak, when he was just 9 years old. But he admitted feeling frustrated over the process of shooting a roll of film, waiting to have it developed, and then discovering that many of the photos were duds. “I didn’t have the patience for [traditional photography],” he said. “Not being able to see what the result was right away was hard for me.”

When digital photography emerged in the early 2000s, Weingartner was thrilled. Finally, he had the instant gratification of seeing each photo, with no wasted film and the option to delete ones he didn’t like with the push of a button. His love for photography was rekindled, and he hasn’t looked back. 

He began casually taking photos of his kids’ sports matches, plays and concerts. Word spread quickly about his natural talent. “Parents stopped bringing their cameras around and my pictures were used more and more. It became a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Weingartner said.

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

Now that his children are grown, the photographer is focusing more on chronicling the history of Lake Ronkonkoma. On a frigid day in January of 2016, he was invited by Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society member Matt Balkam to photograph the historic Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead on Pond Road. The 14-room home was built in 1888 and contains all of the original furnishings of the Hallock family. In 2006, the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society took over the care of the home, and it is now the only historic home in the community that remains open for tours and other public programming.

That experience would lead Weingartner to become regularly involved with the historical society and the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

In 2016, News12 contacted Evelyn Vollgraff, the president of the historical society, about filming in the area for a show covering historic places on Long Island. When reporter Danielle Campbell arrived at Long Island’s largest freshwater lake with Vollgraff, she was horrified to see how neglected and filthy the body of water was.

Fog encompasses Lake Ronkonkoma

Campbell, Vollgraff and several others put the word out on social media that they wanted to work on beautifying the area. The response was beyond anything Vollgraff anticipated. “We never asked for help. We just did it,” she recalled. “People got interested — legislators, councilmen. At the first meeting, 90 people were there asking what they could do and how they could help. The community came together in an amazing way. We have joined together as groups of friends that wanted to help our community. But now many of them are a part of the historical society as well, and most importantly, they’re my friends.”

In early 2017, the group held its first cleanup of the lake. Weingartner was there that day, too. They have since removed more than 300 tons of trash from the lake, and turned an old bookstore destroyed by fire into the historic Larry’s Landing, a popular hangout named for the bookstore’s late owner, Larry Holzapfel.

“Artie showed up with a camera at one of the cleanups and just started taking pictures — that’s just who he is,” Vollgraff said. “You have to record history. I can’t save every house in Ronkonkoma, but with Artie taking pictures, the history lives on forever.”

The community has also expressed its gratitude for Artie’s work through Facebook, where he frequently posts his photos on the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group and Sachem Sports pages.

“People were coming out of the woodwork from Florida or South Carolina who lived there 30 years ago to say how much it meant to them to see pictures of the place they grew up,” Weingartner said. “When I first moved to Long Island from Queens in 1970, we used to swim in the lake, but over a few years it got so dirty that we didn’t swim there anymore. Before that, people used to come out from Manhattan just to spend time at the lake. It’s always been an important, historic part of this community.”

While the exhibit is named Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma, Weingartner said it encompasses a range of subjects, including sports and landscapes from other parts of Long Island, including Port Jefferson and Belle Terre. More than 75 framed 8-by-10 prints are on display. His favorite photo features Lake Ronkonkoma at sunset, with two birds and sunlight streaming down to the shore. All the photos were taken with a Nikon D600.

The photography show also includes guest contributions from photographers Richard Cornell and Richard Yezdanian.“This exhibit will be interesting to people in our area because [the lake and other scenes] are literally in our backyard,” said Anne Marie Tognella who works in programming and public relations at Sachem Public Library. “It captures many of the scenes that we see and appreciate every day with natural and historic value.”

Sachem Public Library, 150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook will present Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma in its art gallery on the lower level through the month of July. Join them for an artist reception on Saturday, July 21 at 2 p.m. For more information, call 631-588-5024.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A east of Old Coach Road. Photo by Steve Antos

Sometimes what seems like a simple solution to an issue can lead to pesky problems.

New York State Department of Transportation workers were on the site of a stormwater retention pond, also known as a rain garden, on Route 25A in Setauket July 10 investigating reported problems. Richard Parrish, stormwater management officer for the Village of Poquott, sent a letter June 18 to follow up with a conversation he had with NYSDOT Regional Director Margaret Conklin, on issues with the newly installed rain garden that is causing problems for Poquott residents.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes.”

— Richard Parrish

Among the issues Parrish cited is that after it rains the pond is filled up to 4 feet deep with standing water. He also said the structure is made of earthen walls and an earthen base and is not fenced in, which can present a danger to people and wildlife. In the letter, he provided the example of a deer stuck in the rain garden a few weeks ago, and residents needed to enter it to release the animal.

He also stated in his letter that he believed the retention pond is not compliant with stormwater regulations under the federal Clean Water Act as it has no controls for capturing sediment or preventing the distribution of sediment and contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes,” Parrish wrote, adding this was the cause of most of the complaints village officials receive.

Parrish said Conklin was immediately responsive to the issue of mosquito control as a Suffolk County Department of Health Services vector control unit came the day he spoke with her. He said road and safety issues still remain.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the organization advocates the use of small rain gardens at the ends of streets leading into the harbor to contain road runoff. It is one of the biggest challenges impacting water quality. However, he agreed the Setauket one is poorly designed, a safety hazard and is not compliant with the federal Clean Water Act.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden.”

— George Hoffman

The Route 25A rain garden had recently been installed as a temporary solution to deal with roadway flooding.

Hoffman said rain gardens are an environmentally friendly way of handling stormwater, replacing traditional recharge basins like sumps and storm drains. The retention ponds are more beneficial as they are built differently.

“They are generally constructed in a small depression composed of porous soils and planted with native shrubs, perennials and flowers and work by slowly filtering rainwater through the soils and plants and filtering out nitrogen and other pollutants,” he said.

Hoffman said the spot, off Route 25A east of Old Coach Road, is not ideal for a rain garden. The site directs water runoff onto the side of the roadway and is not conducive to natural drainage.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden,” Hoffman said.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for NYSDOT, said workers were at the site in early May to remove invasive Japanese knotweed and other debris to improve the drainage.

“NYSDOT has cleaned invasive vegetation and other waste out of storm drains as well as diverted water off the road to the shoulder as part of a short-term plan to curb flooding along Route 25A,” Canzoneri said. “We continue to investigate options for a more permanent solution.”

Caithness Long Island approaches town about building new 600-megawatt plant

Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski 

Another player has emerged to complicate the legal battle with Brookhaven Town and Port Jefferson Village in one corner and the Long Island Power Authority in the other.

Representatives from Caithness Energy LLC, an independent, privately held power producer with a Yaphank plant, went before Brookhaven’s board June 26 requesting permission to construct a 600-megawatt plant, which would be called Caithness Long Island II. This is not the first time, as the power company originally approached the town with plans for a power station in 2014.

“Caithness is seeking an amendment to the covenant and restrictions so it can utilize cleaner, more efficient equipment that recently became available,” said Michael Murphy during the June 26 hearing, an attorney representing Caithness.

“The new equipment has rapid response capability, thereby creating critical support for intermittent renewable energy resources.”

— Michael Murphy

In 2014, Caithness Energy had plans approved by the Brookhaven Town to construct a new 750-megawatt plant in Yaphank powered by two gas-powered turbines and a steam generator. Both Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) voted against the 2014 proposal, though it passed 5-2.

The project has been on hold ever since as energy demands on Long Island are projected to decrease, according to recent annual reports from PSEG Long Island. Then, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mandated in August 2016 that 50 percent of New York’s electricity needs come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

The 600-megawatt power plant would be constructed on 81 acres of vacant land zoned for the use based on the 2014 approval. The proposal has several differences from the 2014 plans in addition to the reduced energy output including a reduction from two exhaust stacks to one; use of newer, more efficient technology; and a reduction from two steam turbines to one.

“It creates a platform for renewable energy,” Murphy said. “The new equipment has rapid response capability, thereby creating critical support for intermittent renewable energy resources. So, this facility will not compete, in essence, with solar and wind.”

The request comes as Port Jefferson Village and the town have said a settlement is nearing in an eight-year-long legal fight with LIPA over the utility company’s contention its Port Jeff plant’s property taxes are over assessed based on its decreasing energy demand. The settlement would smooth the impact of a potential substantial loss of revenue for the village, Port Jefferson School District, Port Jefferson Free Library and Port Jefferson Fire Department based on a reduced assessment of the plant. It would also prevent the village from being held liable for years of back pay should it have chosen to play out the legal battle in court and lost rather than settling the case. The village has argued a way to make good with LIPA over its decreasingly needed plant could be to increase its output capacity. If approved, the Caithness II plant would theoretically kill plans to repower the Port Jefferson plant.

However, according to Caithness President Ross Ain, LIPA has made no commitment to purchase power from the company should a second facility be constructed in Yaphank. It does purchase power from the first Caithness plant, with a 350-megawatt natural gas fire power generating facility operating in Yaphank since 2009.

The public hearing drew comments from those in favor of the proposal, many of whom being Longwood school district residents who would likely see a reduction in property taxes, similar to what Port Jeff residents enjoy currently for housing the Port Jefferson Power Station.

“There is no denying that these [revenue] reductions will cause significant hardships to all segments of our community, which is also your community.”

— Margot Garant

Environmental groups and other residents opposed the plan, as did Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) each submitted statements to be read into the record by Cartright against the proposal and urging the board to vote it down. Garant has taken to social media to urge Port Jeff residents to submit written comments to the town on the proposal.

“There is no denying that these [revenue] reductions will cause significant hardships to all segments of our community, which is also your community,” Garant said in her letter read by Cartright, referencing the impending LIPA settlement. “But at the end of these reductions, our community would still be left with an operating power plant which could produce a significant amount in tax revenues.”

The village mayor painted a dark picture for Port Jeff should the proposal earn board approval.

“The construction of a Caithness II facility will have the inevitable effect of pushing our community off the economic cliff at the end of the proposed period of gradual reductions, while leaving us to deal with an enormous, closed, unusable industrial site which will need serious environmental remediation,” she said.

A representative from Sierra Club Long Island, a local chapter of the national nonprofit dedicated to environmental advocacy, spoke out against Caithness II during the hearing.

“The Sierra Club strongly opposes any attempt to construct a new gas plant on Long Island, and we oppose the Caithness II proposal regardless of the technology involved,” said Shay O’Reilly, an organizer for the nonprofit. “It is absurd to argue that building more fracked gas infrastructure will allow us to meet our clean energy and pollution reduction goals.”

Jack Kreiger, a spokesperson for the town, said he did not know when the board would vote on the proposal.

A bee pollinates catmint in Jen Carlson’s garden. Photo by Jen Carlson
Native plants dominate the landscape this year

By Sabrina Petroski

April showers sure did bring May flowers, and those beautiful flowers just keep blooming. In celebration, the Rocky Point Civic Association will present its 6th annual Rocky Point Garden Tour on Saturday, July 14. The tour, held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine, will showcase 10 beautiful gardens in the Rocky Point area including the one at the historic Noah Hallock House.

A Ruby Falls weeping redbud at a previous garden tour. Photo by Edith Mahler

According to the creator of the event,  civic association member Kathy Weber, the gardens on the tour will be “architecturally inspiring” and will feature annuals and perennials, native and heirloom plants, shrubs and trees, several ponds, a herb garden and a sustainable meadow adopt-a-spot. The idea for the tour originally stemmed from Weber’s own love of gardening. “I always liked to garden and thought Rocky Point has so many unique landscapes,” she said.

Rory Rubino, a member of the board of the civic association and the corresponding secretary for the Rocky Point Historical Society said she enjoys going to this tour every year. “I’ve seen so many amazing gardens. I wish I knew how they got their flowers to bloom so incredibly unique and beautiful!” 

She continued, “The features that are the most interesting are those that conform to how Rocky Point is, using natural rocks for rock walls and unusual plants from the area. Our gardeners’ dedication to natural Long Island plants, not foreign ones, is incredible. They try to use local plants, and by doing so they attract the most butterflies and birds.”

Milkweed in the center, surrounded by rose campion, blooms in Jen Carlson’s garden.

One of the featured gardens is curated by Master Gardener Jen Carlson. Her garden, Pollinator Paradise, includes flowers for pollinators and creates an environment that supports beneficial insects and wildlife. “I will be providing garden tour guests with information from Cornell Cooperative Extension regarding plant varieties that benefit bees and other pollinators, information on composting, and resources available to residents from CCE,” she explained in a recent email.

The Hallock House property will highlight gardens lovingly restored by Edith Mahler, a master gardener and trustee at the historical society, based on historical research of herb and flower gardens from the 1700s to the 1900s.

In addition, one of the stops on the tour will host a book signing and sale (cash only) of “Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family” by Rocky Point resident Kathy McKeon. As of press time, Weber was hoping to add a local artist as well.

Guests will be greeted at each stop by the homeowner, and each home will have refreshments to enjoy while taking in the beautiful scenery. Because the gardens are at various locations around Rocky Point, ticket holders can go where they please without a strict schedule to follow. 

A raised bed garden at the Hallock House. Photo by Edith Mahler

Tickets for the tour ($10 each, cash only) are available now through July 14 and may be purchased at Back to Basics, 632 Route 25A; Flowers on Broadway, 43 Broadway; Heritage Paint, 637 Route 25A; and Handy Pantry, 684 Route 25A, all in Rocky Point. 

Each ticket also includes admission to the Noah Hallock House (1721) at 172 Hallock Landing Road. The oldest standing house in Rocky Point, it features vintage furniture including a rocking horse from 1750, photographs of the Hallock family, a gallery room where local artists have donated paintings and many more artifacts that will transport guests back in time. The gift shop will also be open.

The 6th annual Rocky Point Garden Tour is sponsored by the Rocky Point Civic Association, Carlson Mechanical and the Rocky Point Funeral Home and was organized by volunteers on the Beautification Committee of the Rocky Point Civic Association. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the Rocky Point Civic Association and the Hallock House. For more information, please call 631-521-5726.

Coastal Steward of Long Island volunteer Bill Negra checks the health of oysters in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven is as happy as a clam to have received a $400,000 grant from New York State for use in its shellfish hatchery located at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

Brookhaven’s Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced June 20 that the state Department of Environmental Conservation awarded it a grant to expand and upgrade the Mariculture Facility at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

Long Island Coastal Steward President Denis Mellett shows growing shellfish at Brookhaven’s mariculture facility. Photo by Kyle Barr

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said shellfish play an important role in cleaning the town’s coastal waters.

“All the seeding that we do — and the ability to grow more — just contributes to cleaning the harbor even more,” Bonner said. “You put a couple million oysters in there, you have your own natural filtering system.”

Oysters and other shellfish help remove harmful nutrient pollutants in the water like nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide. These shellfish also feed on algae, which improves water clarity.

Romaine said the grant will fund an upgrade to the facility’s power supply through PSEG, which will run new power lines and poles to the facility, a $275,000 operation. The grant also upgrades motors on existing water pumps to 20 horsepowers and allows for the installation of a new floating upweller system, or FLUPSY, where immature seedlings can be put into the water and be protected from predators. The unique design of FLUPSY incorporates a basket/silo combination to allow easy access to seed and extend the oysters further into the water column, creating more water pressure and higher water flow. Water flow from individual silos is dumped into a centrally located trough with a well and mounted pump to eliminate cavitation.

Long Island Coastal Steward volunteer Bill Negra checks oysters cages in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Kyle Barr

Romaine said repopulating shoreline with shellfish will restore Long Island’s shellfish industry.

“It’s critical to have the ability for people to make a living collecting oysters and clams,” Romaine said. “[Oyster and clam fishermen] have had hard times, and these shellfish would restore that industry.”

The hatchery currently produces 1 million oyster seeds, 2 million clam seeds and 70,000 scallop seeds. The grant funds will enable the town to purchase an additional 2 million new seed clams. The hatchery is expecting to yield approximately 12 million hard clam seed and 3 million oysters by 2019, according
to Romaine.

The most recent group of oysters will be kept in cages over the winter and grow over another season, which starts in spring and runs into late fall. When they reach adult sizes, at about 1.5 inches large, they will be moved into protected plots along the North Shore.

Though town employees operate the Mount Sinai facility, the nonprofit Coastal Steward of Long Island is partnered with the Town of Brookhaven to use the hatchery for its educational shellfish monitoring programs. The town grows the bulk of the oysters inside its facility several yards beyond the beach sands, but the nonprofit helps to monitor the shellfish health inside Mount Sinai Harbor under normal conditions.

Long Island Coastal Steward volunteer Bill Negra, president Denis Mellett and treasurer Mark Campo at Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We clean them, we maintain them and we help them get to adulthood before they’re released,” Coastal Steward President Denis Mellett said. “Unlike the town we’re not trying to breed a million oysters — we’re
managing 50,000 oysters that we can look at and see how they’re growing, measure them and check the mortality.”

Bruce Folz, Coastal Steward director of shellfish restoration, said this year’s crop of shellfish have had better than average growth, and that the group is excited to see if the upgrades will help accelerate growth and
reduce mortality.

“They are important for structure and tidal erosion of the beaches,” Coastal Steward Treasurer Mark Campo said. “That is in addition to all the other benefits, such as the water filtering they provide.”

The grant is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) $10.4 million state initiative to improve Long Island’s water quality and coastal resilience by expanding shellfish populations. Other grants were awarded to the towns of East Hampton, Islip and Hempstead.

Brookhaven town board members unanimously adopted a $400,000 bond June 14 in case the grant money does not arrive by this fall, which is when renovation is expected to start, and continue through Spring 2019.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and the Suffolk County Plastic Reduction Task Force calls on restaurants and residents to reduce straw use this summer at a press conference July 2 at The Purple Elephant in Northport. Photo by Amanda Perelli

By Amanda Perelli

A Suffolk County legislator is asking residents to go strawless this summer, along with local participating restaurants pledging to keep from giving out plastic straws.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and members of the Suffolk County Plastic Reduction Task Force, have launched a countywide initiative to reduce single-use plastic straws, named Strawless Suffolk.

The goal is to have 100 seaside restaurants in Bellport, Greenport, Huntington, Northport, Patchogue and Port Jefferson Village take a pledge to stop using plastic straws by Labor Day, according to Hahn.

The initiative’s kickoff announcement was held July 2 at The Purple Elephant in Northport. It is one of 31 restaurants and two schools that have already taken the pledge.

The restaurants that pledge will be provided with a blue turtle decal that states “Strawless Summer 2018 Participant.”

“We can get rid of that throw away culture that we have and move toward reusing, rather than just trying to recycle.”

— Kaitlin Willig

“If you see the sticker, go back to those restaurants because they are doing the right thing,” Hahn said.

To be eligible, restaurants can participate in three ways: Stop using straws completely, provide biodegradable straws made with paper or bamboo upon request and/or provide reusable straws made of stainless steel or glass.

“The task force was created in order to reduce the single-use plastics,” said Kaitlin Willig, Stony Brook
University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and vice chair of Suffolk County Plastic Reduction Task Force. “I think we are trying to go about it in a way that educates people, so they make the choice themselves. We can get rid of that throw away culture that we have and move toward reusing, rather than just trying to recycle. We are trying to go through education and make smarter choices.”

Hahn said she’s been participating in beach cleanups for a long time and is always struck with how many straws she comes across.

“We’d go to a restaurant and it would make me so angry when they just put [a straw] in your drink without even saying anything,” Hahn said. “I mean it’s really just a waste. I can’t even say no at this point because it’s too late. If they put it down and it’s wrapped, I’ll just give it back.”

Hahn added that leaving the unused wrapped straw on the table is not enough. She worked in a restaurant and said it is common an unopened straw would be thrown out anyway. She directed those interested in getting involved to take their own pledge with the Skip the Straw campaign, a similar initiative tailored
to get individuals involved by Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting ocean health.

“I think individuals should think about trying to do it themselves,” Hahn said. “You know first and foremost you can be responsible for what you do as an individual and then you can also tell the restaurants you frequent. You can tell them they don’t need to, and they’ll save money if they don’t automatically give out straws. If they make it by request, they can save a lot and then if they do choose to provide some upon
request, make it paper.”

Nearly 90 percent of all marine debris is made of plastic, including plastic straws. Every day Americans discard half a billion plastic straws, many of which find their way into oceans and inland waterways,
according to the press release.

Cedar Beach waters in Mount Sinai run into the Long Island Sound. File photo by Elana Glowatz

With mounting pressure to preserve the sanctity of Long Island’s coastal waters, Suffolk County is teaming up with specialists at Stony Brook University to educate the public on marine pollution.

“Folks on Long Island are more involved with [marine pollution] than other parts of the country because they are spending time around the sound and beaches,” said Katherine Aubrecht, the faculty director for coastal environmental studies at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. “It’s such a bigger part of people’s lives, and there is a more receptive audience here to be thinking about this.”

The county Legislature unanimously passed a resolution June 5 to direct the Division of Planning & Environment in the Department of Economic Development and Planning to collaborate with SoMAS to establish a marine debris pollution awareness program.

“It is important to teach young children about the impact they are having on their community and how they can become environmentally conscientious.”

— Kathleen Fallon

Though it is just in its preliminary stages, according to Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) who sponsored the resolution, the awareness program would be used to educate school-aged children and the general public on the dangers of garbage pollution to the marine ecosystem.

“We want the education to be generalized, so that we can have flexibility in who we speak to and about what,” Anker said.

Anker said the two goals for the upcoming program are to educate the public on how we are affecting and degrading our oceans, and to teach people what they could do about it, including the need for beach cleanups and how to properly recycle plastics.

Aubrecht said that there are three unpaid interns from the Stony Brook University’s environmental humanities program charged with compiling data on ocean pollution, and looking into what other marine debris  education efforts exist on Long Island. Data is also being collected on demographics the program wishes to target with the campaign.

Kathleen Fallon, the coastal processes and hazards specialist for New York Sea Grant, said educating young people is of the utmost significance.

“It is important to teach young children about the impact they are having on their community and how they can become environmentally conscientious,” she said. “Some examples could include teaching students about the impact they might have, even just picking up a few pieces of trash or about how all pollutants eventually make their way into marine environments.”

“Some examples could include teaching students about the impact they might have, even just picking up a few pieces of trash or about how all pollutants eventually make their way into marine environments.”

— Kathleen Fallon

Anker said she expects the program to have a full formal presentation ready by the end of next year. She also expects by next Earth Day, the debris awareness program will have presentations to show what citizens can do to help clean up the local marine environment.  

Microplastics ending up in local waters are among the most pressing issues on Long Island. Microplastics are plastics that have broken down due to erosion into pieces smaller than 5 millimeters — they end up being swallowed by sea life endangering the health of the animal and, if the issue is untreated, those plastics can easily end up on the dinner table.

At the county Legislature’s April 19 Health Committee meeting Rebecca Grella, a Brentwood High School research scientist and teacher, said she had surveyed Flax Pond Marine Laboratory in Old Field in October 2017 and that in 1 square meter of shoreline, found 17 grams of microplastics. She said there were approximately 400 pounds of plastic in 1 mile of shoreline in the pond.

Aubrecht said that when these plastics enter a marine environment they can also cause organic pollutants — which are often too dispersed and not dangerous — to merge onto these plastics, but have a larger effect on marine wildlife. Ocean debris also cause animal entanglement, like a small fish or turtle getting caught in a plastic ring that holds a six-pack of cans. These entangled creatures often suffer major injuries or die if they can’t free themselves.

Though all these problems may seem daunting, Fallon said that education is the starting line in a race that will hopefully end with the elimination of marine pollutants and debris.

“A community that is made aware of the impact that they are having on their environment will hopefully be more likely to avoid harmful actions,” Fallon said.

Your adventure awaits! Photo from Sue Avery

By Karen Smith

There are days when we need a break from the general craziness of life, and we just want to get outdoors to walk in a peaceful place. Three Village residents are fortunate to have a number of options for this peaceful pursuit and one of the very loveliest is the Three Village Garden Club Arboretum, accessible through the parking lot of the adjacent and separately owned Frank Melville Memorial Park, 101 Main St., Setauket.

This “hidden haven” contains 4.5 acres of wooded pathways that meander through an open meadow, past 30 varieties of specimen trees and shrubs, and offers views of the Conscience Bay headwaters. It’s a habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs, turtles and the rabbits, squirrels and deer that are found throughout our area. 

In early spring you can view the trees and shrubs starting to bud, and as the months pass there are flowers in bloom, then the fall colors and finally the stark beauty of winter. Each offers a different experience, but the feeling of tranquility always is there.

While the arboretum is open to the public, it is privately owned and maintained by the Three Village Garden Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Our volunteer and hardworking arboretum administrators oversee the planting of new trees, shrubs and plants, regular mowing of the meadow, removal of invasive plants and management of bamboo. In addition, arborists are called in as needed to remove tree limbs, and when necessary, entire trees. When required, wood chips are added to pathways to ensure that trails remain dry. 

The thousands of dollars expended annually on this maintenance by the TVGC is deemed necessary to ensure the safety of all visitors and the beauty of the property. 

In addition, many hours of volunteer work are provided by members of Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment (S.T.A.T.E.), part of the Avalon organization, and at times, Scouts and of course, garden club member-volunteers.

The arboretum also is used for educational purposes, chief among which are the Arbor Day celebration held in spring and the Meet the Trees program in the fall. 

Second-grade students from all elementary schools in the Three Village School district are invited to visit and have these “hands-on” experiences to supplement their science curriculum. For the past 10 years it also has been the site of a Teddy Bear Picnic for preschoolers and their parents, offering a walk through the property to introduce them to the natural environment.

You’re cordially invited to visit! Come with a friend or family member. Leashed pets are permitted. Enjoy this beautiful haven whenever you’re in the mood for a peaceful place!

Karen Smith is a member of the Three Village Garden Club.

Stock photo

The next couple of months are packed with celebrations, including high school and college proms and graduations. When planning any outdoor festivities, PSEG Long Island urges customers to think carefully
about how they handle Mylar balloons. Though they can make a party more festive, Mylar balloons can also cause power outages when they get loose and come in contact with electrical equipment.

The distinctive metallic coating on Mylar balloons conducts electricity. Because of this, when a Mylar balloon comes in contact with a power line, it can cause a short circuit. This short circuit can lead to power outages, fires and possible injuries.

To reduce the risk of outages and injuries, residents should keep the following safety tips in mind:

• Mylar balloons and other decorations should be kept away from overhead power lines and all utility equipment.

• Make sure balloons are secured to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Keep balloons tethered and attached to the weights at all times.

• Always dispose of Mylar balloons by safely puncturing the balloon in several places to release the helium that otherwise could cause the balloon to float away.

• Never touch a power line. Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon, toy or other type of debris that is entangled in an overhead power line. Call PSEG Long Island to report the problem at 800-490-0075 so crews can remove the item safely.

For more kite and balloon safety tips visit PSEG’s website.

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