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Water

Brookhaven’s current pump-out boats are showing signs of wear and will be replaced. Photo by Kyle Barr

If you’ve ever seen a boat with a built-in toilet, the next question is inevitable: Where does that waste inevitably go?

Either the waste goes straight into the Long Island Sound or surrounding harbors or boaters call the Town of Brookhaven’s pump-out boats, a service provided by the town for free, to suck out the waste, according to Karl Guyer, a senior bay constable for Brookhaven.

At Brookhaven town’s Sept. 13 meeting the board voted unanimously to purchase two new pump-out boats — one for Mount Sinai Harbor and one for Port Jefferson Harbor. The total cost for both boats is $92,500 with $60,000 of that amount coming from state aid in grant funding from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation. The town is supplying $32,500 in matching funds from serial bonds, according to town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

The town operates four pump-out boats, including two on the South Shore and two on the North Shore, which are located in Port Jeff and Mount Sinai harbors. All these boats were purchased in 2006, and Guyer said it was time all of them were replaced. The two on the South Shore were replaced this year, and the North Shore boats will be replaced early in 2019, according to Guyer.

“They’ve been in service for quite a number of years and they’re at the end of their life span,” Guyer said.

The pump-out boat in Port Jeff Harbor is showing signs of long use. The paint on the boat’s deck has been worn down by years of work, and there are cracks showing in some of the plastic hatches around the boat. William Demorest, the bay constable for Port Jeff Harbor, said the new boats will be made from aluminum, which should give them a longer life span.

The pump-out boat service is widely used by the boaters in both harbors, and on a busy day town employees operating the boats can service hundreds of boats in a single day. People can call for a pump out by radioing the constable’s office on channel 73.

There is a manual boat waste pump in a barge inside Port Jeff Harbor, though the constable said 75 percent of the over 700 boats that come to port on summer weekends use the pump-out boat service. After the pump-out boats are docked for the winter, all North Shore boaters are required to manually pump out their own waste.

Bonner said these boats do a major service in cleaning out the tanks of many boaters, because dumping the waste into the coastal waters only adds to the islands growing water pollution problem.

“Not only would there be waste in the water but the nitrogen load would be crazy,” Bonner said. “It would take several tides to flush that out.”

All the water from Conscience Bay through Port Jefferson Harbor as well as the entire Long Island Sound is within mandated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency No-Discharge Zones, meaning it is illegal to dump any boat waste into the surrounding waters.

While Demorest said he hasn’t seen people dumping their waste into the water himself, he has heard reports of it being done. He said he believed the vast majority use the free pump-out service.

“If we don’t see it, there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

Many areas of the North Shore are experiencing waves of hypoxia, an increase of nitrogen in the water that deprives sea life, both plants and animals, of oxygen. During a press conference Sept. 25, co-director of the Center for Clean Water Technology Christopher Gobler and other researchers from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership concluded there were cases of harmful algae blooms in harbors from Mount Sinai all the way to Huntington, another symptom of excess nitrogen in the water. Most of that nitrogen has come from cesspools and septic tanks from people’s homes slowly leaking into the surrounding waters.

The boats usually operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday mostly by high school and college-aged summer employees, according to Guyer. The pump-out boat service ends on Columbus Day, Oct. 8.

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This skiff belonging to Wen Zhong Wang, 37, of Ronkonkoma, was found empty in the Long Island Sound. Photo from SCPD

A man spent 45 minutes treading water in the Long Island Sound Sept. 4 after being knocked off his small boat by a wake, according to Suffolk County police. The man was rescued from the water after his unoccupied skiff was spotted floating in the Sound.

Marine Bureau officers Cory Kim and Gregory Stroh responded aboard Marine Delta after a fisherman reported finding an unoccupied skiff floating in the Long Island Sound at about 12 p.m. Tuesday, police said. While officers were responding to that call, a 911 caller reported a person yelling for help in the water off Old Field Road in Setauket.

Officers Kim and Stroh located the man, Wen Zhong Wang, 37, of Ronkonkoma, approximately 1/10 of a mile from shore. Wang, who was not wearing a life jacket, had been in the water approximately 45 minutes after he was knocked off his 9-foot skiff when it was hit by wake from a passing boat. Wang was transported to the Port Jefferson boat ramp where he was evaluated by Port Jefferson Ambulance personnel and released.

The fisherman towed the boat to shore where it was secured by the Port Jefferson Harbormaster.

Port Jefferson Harbor. File photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Harbor is currently undergoing an alarming phenomenon that an expert called “uncharted territory” locally.

The harbor is currently experiencing a rust tide, or an algal bloom, caused by a single-celled phytoplankton. Rust tides don’t pose any harm to humans but can be lethal to marine life.

Christopher Gobler, endowed chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said rust tides are spurred by hot air, water temperatures and excessive nutrients in the water, especially nitrogen. The Gobler Laboratory at SBU, named for the chairman, is monitoring the situation, performing research into its specific causes, and is looking for solutions to reduce nitrogen loading and thus the intensity of events like these, according to Gobler. He said he has been studying the phenomenon on the East End of Long Island for about 12 years, but this is only the second time it has occurred in Port Jefferson Harbor.

“We never had these blooms even on the East End before 2004,” Gobler said. “Now, they occur pretty much every year since 2004 or so.”

Blooming rust tides typically start in late August and last into mid-September.  However, as water and global temperatures continue to rise, Gobler said there are a lot of unknowns. He said this is one of the hottest summers he has ever witnessed regarding the temperature of the Long Island Sound, adding that temperatures in the local body of water have increased at a rate significantly faster than global averages.

“The big issue is temperature, so these blooms tend to track very well with warmer temperatures,” Gobler said.

George Hoffman, a co-founder of Setauket Harbor Task Force, a nonprofit group which monitors and advocates for the health of the harbor, said his organization saw some early evidence of a rust tide in Little Bay while conducting biweekly water testing Aug. 24. Little Bay is located within Setauket Harbor, and within the larger Port Jefferson Harbor complex. Hoffman said the task force’s readings suggested salinity levels and water temperature were within the parameters needed for the growth of a rust tide.

Rust tide is caused by cochlodinium polykrikoides, according to a fact sheet compiled by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The single-cell phytoplankton may harm fish and shellfish because it produces a hydrogen peroxide-like compound that can damage their gill tissue. Fish can avoid these dangerous blooms by simply swimming away. Fish and shellfish harvested in areas experiencing rust tides are still safe for human consumption.

Gobler said the installation of septic systems capable of removing more nitrogen in homes, especially that fall within watershed areas, would go a long way toward reducing hazardous algal blooms. Suffolk County has taken steps in recent months to increase grant money available to homeowners interested in installing septic systems with up-to-date technology capable of reducing the amount of nitrogen discharged into local waters. In addition, members of the New York State-funded Center for Clean Water Technology at SBU unveiled their nitrogen-reducing biofilter April 26 at a Suffolk County-owned home in Shirley.

Stony Brook University professor Christopher Gobler discusses the quality of local bodies of water at a press conference Sept. 12. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

There’s still something in the water — and it’s not a good kind of something.

Scientists from the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences released an annual report highlighting the concern over the prolonged existence of toxic algae blooms, and a deficiency of oxygen in Long Island waters caused high levels of nitrogen.

Stony Brook Professor Christopher Gobler and several members of the advocacy collective Long Island Clean Water Partnership, a conglomerate of several Long Island environmental groups, revealed the findings of a study done from May to August.

The Roth Pond, a Stony Brook University body of water that plays host to the annual Roth Regatta, is affected by blue-green algae. File photo from Stony Brook University

“In order to make Long Island sustainable and livable, clean water needs to be established,” said Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The challenge has been very great over the last decade … though the problem, unfortunately, is getting a bit worse. Algae blooms and the degradation of water quality across Long Island are serious threats to Long Island’s health.”

On the North Shore, there are several severe cases of hypoxia, or a depletion of dissolved oxygen in water, which is necessary for sea life to survive. Cases were found in Stony Brook Harbor, Northport Bay, Oyster Bay and Hempstead Bay. Measured on a milligram per liter of water scale,any case of hypoxia below two milligrams per liter can be harmful to fish, and almost anything else living on the bottom of the bays.

There were also periodic outbreaks of blue-green algae in Lake Ronkonkoma and Stony Brook University’s Roth Pond. This algae releases a poison harmful to humans and animals, but Gobler said students at the university shouldn’t worry, because he and other scientists at Stony Brook are constantly monitoring the water, especially before the annual Roth Regatta.

“[If nothing is done] the areas could expand — it could get more intense,” Gobler said. “We use a cutoff of three milligrams per liter, which is bad, but of course you can go to zero. An area like Hempstead Harbor went to zero, [Northport and Oyster Bays] went to zero at some points in time. There’s a usual day-night cycle, so it’s at night that the levels get very, very low.”

“We have the problem growing worse, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.”

—Dick Amper

As a result of the possibility of hypoxia expanding, Gobler said he and other scientists have also been monitoring Port Jefferson Harbor and Setauket Harbor.

Though Setauket Harbor is not currently experiencing any problems with hypoxia or algae, the harbor has experienced periods of pathogens, like E. coli, some of which were born from runoff into the harbor, but others might have come from leakage of antiquated cesspools in the area, according to George Hoffman, a trustee of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, which is also a member of the Clean Water Partnership.

Next May the task force hopes to start monitoring directly inside Setauket Harbor. Runoff from lawn fertilizers can also increase the nitrogen levels in the harbor.

“If our problem isn’t hypoxia, we have a problem with pathogens,” Hoffman said in a phone interview. “Prevention is really [Dr. Gobbler’s] goal — to know what is happening and to start taking steps. I think people’s information levels [on the topic] are high in the surface waters that they live by.”

In addition to hypoxia and blue-green algae, some of the water quality problems found in the assessment were brown tides on the South Shore, rust tide in the Peconic bays and paralytic shellfish poisoning on the East End — all of which are also nitrogen level issues that can be  traced back to cesspool sewage and fertilizers.

Port Jefferson Harbor is being monitored due to the speading of hypoxia across local bodies of water. File photo by Alex Petroski

“Make no mistake about it, this is so big that even … still, we have the problem growing worse, and it is going to get worse before it gets better,” said Dick Amper, the director of The Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “What’s the solution to this problem? We have to do more.”

There have been several efforts to help curb water degradation on Long Island. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation in April that put $2.5 billion toward clean water protection, improving water infrastructure and building new sewer systems in Smithtown and Kings Park, and adding a rebate program for those upgrading outdated septic systems.

Despite doing more, the repairs will take some time.

“This is going to be a long, long marathon,” said Kevin McDonald, the conservation project director at The Nature Conservancy said.

There is also worry that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — announcing the dumping of dredged materials into Long Island Sound — could compound the problem.

“We have more political funding and will try to implement solutions,” Esposito said. “The problems are getting worse, but the solutions are becoming clearer.”

Dog owners like Kevin Harrigan and Taylor Gittin who are watching their dogs Cassie and Ruby play can look forward to using fresh water stations at Selden Dog Park thanks to a grant secured by Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Dog owners in Brookhaven have something new to bark about, as the Town of Brookhaven received a grant to make improvements to the Selden Dog Park.

Last week, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) announced the town was one of just 25 local municipalities out of 215 from across the country to receive pet supply manufacturer PetSafe’s annual Bark for Your Park grant — a $10,000 prize. Most of the funds will be used to install new water stations and water fountains inside the dog park, and the rest will go toward minor improvements.

Taylor Gittin and his dog Cassie play at Selden Dog Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a lot of dog owners that want a place where they can bring their dog who can run around with other dogs who live in the area,” LaValle said. “That’s where this all started — a lot of dog lovers out there who needed a place to go.”

Selden resident Taylor Gittin has already visited the park several times with his 1.5-year-old dog Cassie since recently moving to the area from Chicago.

“There were some parks in the neighborhood, but they were concrete, so its nice that there are trees and she can run on [the sand],” Gittin said of his old park compared to the one in Selden. “A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

Not including villages and private property, the town currently supports two off-leash dog parks — in Selden and Middle Island. The Selden Dog Park will receive sprinklers, and new plants will help beautify the entrance. Slats will be added to the entrance gate so excited dogs don’t crowd the entrance as new owners enter.

“We’re always looking to save taxpayers money, and going out and getting these grants, whether it’s for infrastructure or parks, is something we really focus in the town because it offsets our costs,” LaValle said. “It’s these little extras that the residents want and the residents need that helps keep the tax bills down. We beat out municipalities from all over the country, so this was a great thing.”

“A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

—Taylor Gittin

The Bark for Your Park grant began in 2011 as a social media contest that would earn just over 40 applicants PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist Justin Young said in an email. In 2016, the contest was transformed into a grant-giving campaign. There are 25 grants available in different funding levels — communities building a new park can apply for a $25,000 grant, communities performing maintenance on existing parks can receive $10,000 and communities that desire new equipment can get $5,000 worth of park accessories through park furnishing company Ultrasite, a partner of PetSafe.

“The program is all about finding enthusiastic, pet-loving communities that support green spaces, with civic leaders and community organizations who want to improve their communities and encourage responsible pet ownership,” Young said in the email.

Centereach resident Kevin Harrigan is a regular to the park and takes his three dogs Ruby, Max and Jasper for a walk around Selden almost every day.

“This dog park is a God send,” Harrigan said. “From my perspective, there’s a lot of people like me — I’m in my 60s, I’ve been living in this community for 20 years and I pay my taxes every year. I have three dogs. I can’t bring them in the parks, can’t bring them in school areas. I pay the taxes to pay for all these things and I can’t enjoy any of them. [A good amount] of the population are out here without kids, so for a lot of us, dogs are our kids.”

The corner of King and Oxalis road flooded as garbage cans floated to the center of the dip at the intersection following severe rainfall Aug. 18. Photo from Sara Wainwright

By Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point residents are flooded with emotion over the rise in water level during recent storms.

As rain fell on King and Oxalis roads during the heavy rainfall Aug. 18, residents reached out to Brookhaven Town’s highway department in search of answers as to why their questions of concern have not been answered.

“I know we sound like a broken record regarding the flooding conditions at King and Oxalis, but I am writing to continue to follow up on this situation,” Rocky Point resident Sara Wainwright wrote in a letter to the highway department. “We’ve been complaining for years about the flooding, which used to be occasional, and now occurs nearly every time it rains.”

Flooding runs down an almost mile-length on King Road in Rocky Point. Photo from Sara Wainwright

She said, and the highway department confirmed, that additional drains were added, but Wainwright claims they’re in places where they do not help to relieve the flooding, and said the town has to send out manpower and equipment to pump the drains almost every big storm.

“My husband, Frank, had a lengthy conversation with Kevin from the highway department, and members walked the property,” said Wainwright, who lives on King Road right across from the Oxalis intersection. “We suggested and Kevin agreed to look into installing additional drains on our property in front of our trees. We have heard nothing else on this since, and the conditions have continued to deteriorate with every storm.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said that 12 drainage structures have been installed in the specific area of Rocky Point over the last year to alleviate flooding conditions. He said the cost of the systems was more than $70,000.

But Wainwright and her neighbors say the streets are still dangerous during heavy rain.

“This is the worst we have seen from rain alone — the water is nearly up to my neighbor’s front walkway,” she said Aug. 18. “Highway department workers did drive by and they did mention there are other flooding conditions today, however this is an ongoing issue that I have been requesting help with for several years. Please do not try to pacify me with ‘we had lots of flooding everywhere today.’ Even the fire department sent out warnings to responders that the road is closed due to flooding here.”

Losquadro responded that “flooding everywhere” is part of the problem, but said recent studies have shown that there is still a drainage issue in the vicinity.

“When we have significant rain events like this morning — when nearly four inches of rain fell within a few hours — most drainage structures will struggle to dissipate the runoff quickly enough to maintain a water-free surface,” he said. “I am well aware of the conditions experienced this morning both in Rocky Point and across central and northern Brookhaven Town and immediately dispatched crews to these areas to pump out existing drainage structures to alleviate flooded road conditions.”

Wainwright said that cars still speed down the road as flooding persists, and said this summer a man was trapped in his car when it died as he passed through.

Flooding on King and Oxalis roads. Photo from Sara Wainwright

“Please let me know how the town plans to proceed to resolve this issue as opposed to using our tax dollars to send out, and put at risk, employees and equipment,” Wainwright wrote in the letter. “Cars travel very fast down this road and have no regard for your workers, unfortunately. Another time, a police car became stuck, and multiple others of cars travel so fast they send a wake over my treetops. I think you get my point.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has lived in Rocky Point for the last 30 years, has witnessed the issue firsthand, and receives concerned calls and emails regarding the matter.

“Residents send me photos and ask for my help,” she said. “The highway department and Dan Losquadro have been doing a great job paving roads, repairing drains and putting out massive storm water infrastructure. As a resident of Rocky Point I know some flood spots are better than others, and I’m thankful I live at the top of a hill, but I have seen when the rain stops, it does drain pretty quickly. It’s a matter of massive pileup over a short period of time.”

Wainwright said at the very least, she feels there should be street signs indicating the risk of flood conditions, and a warning to signal drivers to slow down as they move through the at-risk streets.

“I’m concerned as the season progresses that we will see more rain and possibly tropical storm and hurricane conditions,” Wainwright said in her letter. “My neighbors and I should not need to worry about flooding at elevation — you must understand that is ridiculous. We are all taxpayers. Please communicate to us as to how you plan to use the money that we have all been paying to remedy this safety issue.”

Losquadro said his engineering division recently completed a drainage study in and around the area of King and Oxalis roads, and came to the conclusion that there is still some concern.

“I will be moving forward with additional drainage infrastructure to handle more volume than what had been designed for in the past,” he said, “thereby preventing this condition from happening again.”

Through Compassion International, Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ can give clean water to communities in need

Sylvia, on right, passes a sponge to Natalie as the pair help youth group leader Michael Clark scrub down a car. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

The soap suds were flying as young members of a Mount Sinai church hosed down dozens of cars this past Saturday to better the lives of children in need around the world.

During a car wash fundraiser Aug. 12 on the grounds of the Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ on North Country Road, members of the church’s youth group cleaned cars for three hours and raised $320 in donations. All proceeds are going toward clean and safe water filtration systems for impoverished communities in faraway countries.

Natalie hoses off a car during the Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

In these areas, which include villages in Africa, Asia and South America, life-threatening diseases emerge from contaminated waters, taking the lives of a child every 15 seconds.

From the money raised, four $79 filtration systems will be purchased and delivered to these communities in need by Compassion International, a child-advocacy organization that’s been helping the poor worldwide since 1952.

Each village will receive a filtration system which also includes two buckets, a hose and training on how to maintain it so it can provide a lifetime supply of water.

“We got to choose what we wanted the money to go for,” Natalie, a 12-year-old church member from Rocky Point, said during the car wash.

When she and others in the youth group, which is made up of fifth through 12th grade students from five local school districts, saw the water initiative among a long list of others on the Compassion International website, Natalie said it immediately excited them.

“A lot of people are getting sick because they’re drinking dirty water, so we chose to do something to give them clean water,” she said “It makes me really happy to know someone else is going to have a better life because of this. It’s one of my life goals to help people around me, and make the world a better place.”

Natalie’s youth group friend Sylvia, 12, from Selden, said she was also moved  by the idea, and decided to join the cause.

Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ youth group leaders Michael Clark and Mary Larson helped put together a car wash to raise money for water filtration systems in needy communities. Photo by Kevin Redding

“To me that’s just incredible,” Compassion International communications director Tim Glenn said upon hearing about the car wash. “To see youth — 10- to 12-year-olds — come together to raise money to change a family’s life like that — I just love that. In 2017, a day and age where we’re told to think of ourselves first, there are teenagers and young people out there who are putting the needs of others first, to make sure their basic needs are met.”

Mount Sinai Congregational began its partnership with Compassion International roughly a year ago when a member on the church’s Board of Christian Outreach decided to sponsor an 8-year-old girl from Kenya named Kanana Ferry through the organization.

A first-grader living in the village of Ruiri, Ferry has become an honorary member of the church’s youth group through letter correspondence and is frequently provided tuition assistance, books and games.

“From there, the kids got interested and thought that any child should have water, any child should be able to go to school; they’d say ‘let’s do more,’” said Mary Larson, one of the youth group leaders. “I’m so proud of them that they’re taking their Saturday to do this. It’s important to help those who are marginalized, but they’re also working
together to get this done.”

While Natalie, Sylvia and 10-year-old Jake scrubbed Toyotas and Mercedes with sponges and sprayed windshields and each other with water, other kids held up signs on the side of the road waving more cars in.

“In a few hours of the day, a world change can be made,” said Jake, from Stony Brook,  before washing down a pickup truck.

Jake smiles as he washes a car during the fundraising event for water filtration systems for communities in need. Photo by Kevin Redding

Earlier this year, the kids raised more than $200 to donate chickens and miscellaneous supplies to help families in need, and regularly host fundraisers to pay for mission trips.

Youth group leader Stephanie Clark, who grew up attending the Mount Sinai church, said she’s always happy to see how enthusiastic the kids are about helping others.

“It’s very exciting,” said Clark, whose husband Michael also became a youth leader. “I think it’s good to have a community like this growing up. And growing up in this church, when I was young, I looked up to older members and now they look up to older members. That’s just how we are.”

Glenn said he personally visited some of the poor villages in South America and witnessed how much the water filters boost the morale of families. Each filter produces up to one million gallons of clean water and lasts years, he said.

“I want to thank the youth group and church so much for stepping up and changing the lives of families,” Glenn said. “Thank you for thinking beyond yourselves and taking the time out of your busy schedules to do something like this for others you may never meet.”

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It happens somewhere between midnight and 6 in the morning during most summer days. During those witching hours, when most people are resting before the challenges of the day ahead, automatic systems silently climb in synchronization from below ground and propel a precious resource. When the system is done, it silently submerges below ground.

These irrigation systems spread water on lawns all over Long Island and, indeed, the United States.

This year, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation sent out a letter to the water departments throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, asking them to reduce water usage by 15 percent within the next three to four years.

The 15 percent reduction is “an ambitious goal,” acknowledged Ty Fuller, director of strategic initiatives and lead hydrogeologist at the Suffolk County Water Authority, which is “attainable” but “it will not be easy.”

For consumers, reducing water usage offers several benefits. For starters, less water used means a lower water bill. Beyond that, however, lower water use conserves a valuable resource. Cutting back on water use also keeps water sources like SCWA and others from needing to drill more wells, upgrade pumps or develop more water systems to meet the increasing summertime demands of Long Islanders eager for lush, green lawns.

As Fuller pointed out, lowering water demand during those peak hours can also ensure that the water system can maintain a fire flow protection.

“That’s always a top priority,” Fuller said. “We want to make sure we can always meet” that demand. It is particularly important in the midst of a drought and as the threat of wildfires increases.

Yet changing consumer behavior on any level is challenging. After all, some of those who need to alter their watering habits are the same people who make New Year’s resolutions that barely last a week.

Fuller said SCWA has identified its top water users during the summer and is reaching out to them to advise on different conservation practices.

The authority is also holding regular water talks and has created a Water Wise Club, where some 382,000 account customers can qualify for credits if they purchase water savings devices. These items include low-flow shower heads and rain sensors, which turn off sprinkler systems after rainstorms when the lawns already have sufficient moisture. The rain sensor provides up to a $50 account credit.

SCWA is encouraging customers to adopt an odd/even system. If their street address is an odd number they water their lawns on odd days, while the even numbers only water lawns on even days.

SCWA rolled out the Water Wise CheckUp scheme with Brinkmann Hardware in Blue Point. Through a consultation with homeowners, an expert identifies each point of water use and provides a road map for savings. Customers requesting a checkup can call 631-292-6101. Customers can also receive information and print out a form at the website www.scwa.com/mobile/water_wise_checkup.

Consumers who become more informed about best practices for watering their lawns can help make this conservation initiative a reality.

“People have been led to believe that irrigating every day is a good thing,” Fuller said. “That can encourage fungal growth. If people see brown blades on their grass, they assume that’s not irrigated properly,” but that can be fungal growth. Adding more water to the lawn can exacerbate the problem.

Cutting back on water usage is a “win-win situation” for the customer and for the water system, Fuller said. “Why would people not want to play a role?”

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Port Jefferson high school could look very different in the coming years if a $30M bond proposal is approved by the community. File photo by Elana Glowatz

After the highly publicized discovery of lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, Port Jefferson School District decided not to leave the safety of its students and staff to chance.

The district employed Ronkonkoma-based environmental consulting firm Enviroscience Consultants Inc. to conduct a district-wide test for lead in drinking water this summer. The firm released results of the testing in a report dated June 28.

A total of 126 water fixtures were tested across Edna Louise Spear Elementary, Port Jefferson Middle School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. Traces of lead large enough to require action were found in nine locations, according to the report.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t a reaction starting essentially with Flint, Michigan. But our response to it is going to be proactive. We have to make sure that there isn’t any danger while [students are] at school.” — Paul Casciano

At the middle school, a first-floor water fountain, two sinks in science labs and a kitchen sink had lead levels exceeding 15 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level” threshold for lead in water is 20 parts per billion, as listed in in its 2006 guide entitled “3T’s for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools.” At the high school, sinks in the third-floor faculty bathroom, an athletic coaching office and a science lab, as well as a spigot in an athletic office and a water fountain in a wood shop, showed lead levels higher than 15 parts per billion. All nine fixtures have been removed and either replaced or will be replaced, according to District Facilities Administrator Fred Koelbel.

In water sources like sinks in science labs or bathrooms, school districts are permitted to note with a sign that the water shouldn’t be used for drinking, but Port Jefferson opted to remove such fixtures anyway.

“The district response here is at the top of the curve,” Enviroscience Consultants President Glenn Neuschwender said in an interview to the district’s choice to adhere to stricter standards than those laid out by the EPA, and their decision to opt for removal of the fixtures instead of signs. “This board has taken the highest level of conservatism when it comes to protecting the kids.”

Neuschwender stressed levels found in Port Jefferson are not remotely close to those found in places like Flint and fall below some action-required thresholds other than the EPA. Still, he suggested concerned parents take action.

“You have to have a discussion with your child,” he said. “Do you use that fountain? If they don’t, the discussion is kind of over. If they say ‘yeah, I use it from time to time,’ then the only sure way to find out if your child has been impacted is to have a blood-lead test.”

According to the report, lead can impact every organ of the human body, though it is most harmful for the central nervous system. Low levels can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems, among other problems. High levels can result in neurological problems or even death.

Koelbel said a comprehensive test on this level had not been conducted in recent years though concerns in 1985 prompted the district to replace fixtures at the elementary school. None of the locations tested at Edna Louise Spear yielded results that required action.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Paul Casciano said he understands parents’ concerns, though the district plans to be upfront and forthright about its findings and subsequent action.

“We feel that we’re being more cautious, replacing sinks as opposed to putting up a sign,” he said. “Obviously all of the lead testing is a reaction so I won’t say we’re proactive. We wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t a reaction starting essentially with Flint, Michigan. But our response to it is going to be proactive. We have to make sure that there isn’t any danger while they’re at school.”

Casciano called the replacements an unanticipated but not prohibitive cost.

“Anything that protects the safety of students is worth the expense,” he said.

Koelbel said the district is planning to test the replaced fixtures in the coming weeks, though no plans currently exist for a second comprehensive, districtwide test.

He added that the district is in the process of replacing a few drinking fountains each year with filtered water stations that contain a reservoir to chill water and are designed to make filling bottles easier. Four of the stations already exist in the district.

This version was updated to correct the EPA’s action-level threshold for lead in water.

25 water outlets in buildings throughout Three Village Central School District were found to have lead levels above the EPA guidelines last week. Stock photo

After 25 water outlets in buildings throughout Three Village Central School District were found to have lead levels above the EPA guidelines, school board President William Connors Jr. and Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the district acted quickly to resolve the problem.

“As the health and safety of our students, staff and community is paramount, the district proactively initiated a thorough testing of all potable school water sources for possible elevated levels of lead,” Pedisich said in a statement on Tuesday. “Upon receipt of the results the district immediately took action and disconnected all faucets found to have lead above and near the EPA recommended levels. In addition, the district is in the process of completing the installation of filtered water bottle filling stations district-wide and will continue to conduct periodic testing of water sources in the future.”

J.C. Broderick & Associates Inc., an environmental consulting and testing agency, performed the testing on sampled water from sinks and water fountains districtwide. The testing included a two-step process: an initial water draw (immediately when the water flow begins) and a flush test (after allowing the water to flow through the system for the EPA-recommended 30 seconds). The tests were conducted in late May, with preliminary results received in late June, according to an email received from district spokesperson Marissa Gallo.

The majority of the questionable water sources were located in the elementary schools: eight at Arrowhead, one at Minnesauke, three at W.S. Mount, five at Nassakeag, and three at Setauket School. The others were in areas not accessible by students: three at Murphy Junior High, one at North Country Administration Building, and one at the building on Nicolls Road.

The district has now disconnected all water fountains throughout the schools and is installing filtered water bottle filling stations at each of the elementary schools. Filtered water bottle filling stations are already in use at the high school and both junior highs.

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