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Department of Environmental Conservation

A demonstration is done at King Kullen in Patchogue, showing how to use the drug take-back dropbox added through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s pilot program that started last year. File photo from Adrianne Esposito

By Desirée Keegan

New York is taking another step toward ridding our community and our homes of dangerous drugs.

The state Assembly passed the Drug Take Back Act June 20 following the Senate’s passage of the bill the night before, which will establish a statewide program to provide free, safe pharmaceutical disposal
for unused or expired medications.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers, rather than the taxpayers, will foot the entire bill for implementing the program. Chain pharmacies will be required to provide free drug take-back sites, while other authorized collectors, like independent pharmacies and local lawenforcement, will have the option to participate.

“This landmark law makes New York a national leader in addressing the opioid crisis and protecting our waters from pharmaceutical pollution,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, applauding state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Middletown). “[They] have stood up for clean water, public health and New York taxpayers over the special interests of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry.

This drug take-back legislation is the best in the nation and we believe it will be adopted by other states. The cost to the pharmaceutical industry will be negligible — communities that have passed similar laws estimated a cost of just a couple pennies per prescription.”

This legislation ensures all New Yorkers will have convenient access to safe drug disposal options. Making safe disposal options accessible to the public will reduce what officials described as the harmful
and antiquated practice of flushing unwanted drugs. Drugs that are flushed are polluting waters from the Great Lakes to Long Island Sound, threatening aquatic life, water quality and drinking water.

“A lack of options to safely dispose of unused drugs is contributing to the national drug abuse epidemic that is now the leading cause of injury and death in the U.S., ahead of car accidents,” said Andrew Radin, chair of the New York Product Stewardship Council and recycling director for Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency. “Deaths from drug overdoses and chronic drug abuse in New York state have increased 71 percent between 2010 and 2015.”

More than 2,000 people in New York die annually from opioid overdose, and 70 percent of people that abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family, according to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“The Drug Take Back Act will save lives by stopping prescription drug abuse at its source,” Radin said.

A coalition of environmental, public health and product stewardship organizations praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a recently released report, called “The Feasibility of Creating and Implementing a Statewide Pharmaceutical Stewardship Program in New York State,” which called for the disposal program to be funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Cuomo asked for the report when he vetoed what he called a poorly crafted disposal bill that passed the legislature last year.

“Safe drug disposal options will help save lives by getting leftover prescription drugs out of household medicine cabinets, where they are often stockpiled and abused,” Esposito said. “We now look forward to seeing the governor sign this critical bill into law.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is shrinking. East Beach, which lies within the parameters of the Port Jefferson Country Club bordering the Long Island Sound, is experiencing erosion that has caused Mayor Margot Garant to take notice and seek assistance in the hopes of reversing the trend.

“The Village of Port Jefferson’s shoreline suffered significant structural damage, resulting from multiple state-of-emergency storm events,” said a Jan. 17 letter from GEI Consultants, a privately owned consulting firm, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion. “These storm events appear to be occurring in greater frequency and severity.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

Representatives from GEI, the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation met on the beach May 26 to examine the area and assess its condition. The village is seeking recommendations from GEI and the DEC so that they can then apply for grants from the state to financially assist in projects that would stabilize an already slumping bluff.

“We found that the shoreline erosion has continued to claim significant portions of this recreational area,” the letter said of a Nov. 1, 2016, visit to the beach to view the condition of a bluff that lies below the golf course and adjacent to Port Jefferson Country Club tennis courts and a dune near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor.

The bottom 15 feet of the bluff had fallen 260 feet west of the rock revetment, a man-made pile built to preserve the eroding shoreline, according to the letter. Dredging of sand from the Mount Sinai Harbor navigation channel could be used to revitalize the eroding shoreline, and GEI also suggested dead trees be removed on the slumping bluff near the borders of the PJCC to relieve some of the weight on the sand. Removal of trees would require a permit from the DEC.

“These two actions are critical for long term coastal management of this beachfront,” the January letter said, referring to dredging and the eventual repair of a jetty near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor, which is owned by the Town of Brookhaven. “In the meantime, East Beach will continue to erode unless stopgap measures are implemented.”

Aphrodite Montalvo, a representative from the DEC’s office of communication services, addressed the May 26 meeting in an emailed statement.

“DEC and GEI have met to discuss erosion issues in the area, as well as options for, and alternatives to erosion control,” she said. “DEC does not currently have any pending permit applications from GEI for the vicinity of East Beach.”

The department referred further questions about the matter to GEI or the village.

The village installed a ramp in May 2016 from the road to the sand at the end of Village Beach Road, the road that leads to the waterfront through the country club, which is becoming exposed at its base due to the eroding sand, according to Garant. GEI representatives said the erosion issues had gotten worse since previous checks during the winter and fall.

The mayor added she plans to go after grant money from the county, state and federal government in the hopes of sharing the cost of potential repairs.

GEI and Garant reiterated that the repair of the Brookhaven-owned jetty would be the first step in alleviating the beach’s erosion issues. In September 2016, Brookhaven committed nearly $6 million in funding to go toward the jetty repair. At the time, Brookhaven hoped Port Jeff Village would contribute dollars for the repairs, because according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) the village would receive a direct benefit from the fix, but Garant has yet to show an inclination to do so. The repairs are expected to begin sometime during 2017. The total cost of the repairs is expected to be about $8 million, with grant money secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also going toward the project.

Local legislators and members of the Three Village Community Trust unveil sign for the newly acquired portion of Patriots Hollow State Forest in Setauket. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Thanks to the efforts of elected officials and a decision by a legacy family on the North Shore, Setauket has gained additional preserved land in the hopes of being able to protect local waterways, among other environmental benefits.

April 21, a day before Earth Day, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and local elected officials held a press conference to announce the state’s acquisition of 17 acres of woodlands stretching from the corner of North Country Road and Watson Street in Setauket. The property expands the already 28.3-acre Patriots Hollow State Forest, which runs adjacent to Route 25A and is located across from Setauket’s Stop & Shop.

DEC’s regional director on Long Island, Carrie Meek Gallagher, who grew up in Setauket, started the press conference by welcoming everyone who gathered in the woodlands. She also thanked  Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket); Peter Scully, deputy county executive for administration and former DEC regional director;  Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket);  Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station); and Robert de Zafra and Cynthia Barnes from the Three Village Community Trust for their efforts in securing the land.

Gallagher said the preservation of the land, which was once utilized for potato farming, plays a part in safeguarding the Long Island Sound watershed, and supports forest health while providing a habitat for wildlife.

Many in attendance recognized Englebright for his determination in acquiring the property in the Old Setauket Historic District. The land is where the Fitzsimmons family established their farm in 1939, and through the decades, they began acquiring more land parcels. Once farming ceased, the parcel remained open land where red cedar, gray birch, poplar, black locust and Norway maple trees now stand. Descendants still live in the family home today, and Englebright commended them for choosing preservation over selling the land to developers.

“These beautiful woods that disappear in an eternity behind us could have been more suburbia, could’ve easily been converted into something other than preservation,” he said. “The consequences of that — more traffic, poor air quality, and even worse, a compromised water chemistry in our nearby shores and harbor.”

He said creeks in the area drain into Conscience Bay, which is part of Setauket Harbor, and the bodies of water form the most western part of the Port Jefferson Harbor complex. He also added that the land was the missing link to the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail.

“We are connected to history, to water chemistry, to wildlife diversity and our sense of place,” Englebright said. “This is an important acquisition.”

Scully, who has worked on land preservation projects with Englebright in the past, including the original acquisition of property for Patriots Hollow from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center diocese in 2010, thanked Englebright for his leadership.

“I know that your interest in this property was a motivating factor in the state of New York’s decision to move forward,” Scully said.

Hahn echoed the importance of acquiring the property as well as praise for Englebright. 

“Steve, really our community’s thanks is to you,” Hahn said. “Your dedication, your commitment, your persistence on this piece of property, I know how long this has been in your vision.”

Cartright said Brookhaven Town has been committed to preserving open spaces, and she appreciated the cooperation from all levels of government on the issue.

“We are grateful to be in partnership with the state as well as the county as it relates to the preservation of open spaces,” she said.

She also alluded to key initiatives when it comes to preservation in the future.

“We ask you keep your eyes and ears open as it relates to that,” she said. “But this is an amazing announcement on such an appropriate day as we approach Earth Day.”

Before the unveiling of the new park sign which stands on the new acquisition, Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, thanked the elected officials in attendance calling them a “rogue gallery of people who really make a difference” and expressed gratitude to the Fitzsimmons family, who were unable to attend.

“Nothing reinforces the integrity of a historic district like open space,” Reuter said. “In so many cases, I sort of have this joke about preventing the future — we’re protecting the past, we’re preventing the future. In this case, it’s really quite apt, except the future is our environmental health, and this is a huge triumph.”

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