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Kara Hahn

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn is among the lawmakers hoping to use the #MeToo moment not only to change culture, but to change laws. File photo

Suffolk County Democrats have a new majority leader in the Legislature.

The Democratic caucus voted unanimously on Saturday to name Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) the newest majority leader, replacing Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), who is expected to succeed Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) as deputy presiding officer in early 2016 after a vote scheduled for the first week in January.

Schneiderman was term limited out of the Legislature and will be succeeded in the 2nd District by Legislator-elect Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor).

Hahn, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2011, referred to her quick rise to the majority leader position as validating and empowering, as she looks ahead into the new year.

“I am truly honored that my colleagues have put their trust in me to lead our caucus,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “I feel like I have a proven record of getting things done, and I’m going to do everything I can to work with my colleagues to address the needs of Suffolk County.”

As majority leader, Hahn will lead caucus meetings and help set the Democratic agenda in the county Legislature, a spokesman from her office said. In her four years as a legislator for the North Shore’s 5th District, Hahn has been at the forefront of several legislative battles advocating for the environment, the fight against drug addiction and public safety. She said she planned on tackling the same issues with her majority leader role, with hopes of enacting change for every district in the county.

“It’s important to me that we work hard to solve people’s problems,” she said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) referred to Hahn’s legislative record as a promising attribute to his party’s newest majority leader. Bellone has signed onto several pieces of Hahn’s legislative agenda items over the past several years, including attempts at addressing domestic violence in Suffolk County and limiting the abundance of microbeads polluting county waterways.

“Kara Hahn has a proven record on critical issues like protecting our environment, tackling the opioid crisis and advocating for victims of domestic violence,” Bellone said in a statement. “I know Kara will use the platform of majority leader to be even more effective on the issues that she has spent her life fighting for, and which are critical to move Suffolk County forward.”

Calarco said he has known Hahn for a long time, dating back to when the two of them worked as aides in the county Legislature long before they were first elected. He gave his long-standing colleague encouraging words as she prepared to succeed him as majority leader.

“I think she’s going to be great,” he said. “She knows the Legislature well. She knows how to get things done. She’s a very good fighter for her district and the county as a whole.”

Among the top issues Hahn said she hoped to lead the Democratic caucus in addressing were spurring economic development throughout the county, requiring the county to test groundwater for toxins, preserving open spaces and advocating for healthy living.

File photo by Erika Karp

The Suffolk County Legislature is looking to put the brakes on its “pay now, or else” approach when it comes to fines levied to ticketed drivers.

Lawmakers have tasked the county’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency with developing a payment program for the fines it levies to motorists within 90 days. If approved by the Legislature, the plan could allow nonmoving violators to pay their fines in installments, rather than the current system which requires one lump sum, due immediately.

It all started when Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she was approached by one of her constituents who claimed to be threatened with a driver’s license suspension if he did not pay his nonmoving ticket fine in one full installment.

“The revocation of a driver’s license should be reserved for violators who endanger public safety, not for someone unable to pay a fine on the day it is imposed,” she said.

The county currently has close to $2.3 million in outstanding tickets, lawmakers said. Hahn said that unpaid fines, fees and surcharges associated with parking tickets are often not collected or prove costly to collect and can result in lost revenue for the county government and taxpayers. A payment plan option, Hahn added, is a win-win, because it helps struggling Suffolk County citizens meet their obligations to both their families and to the county.

“A deterrent should never become a detriment, nor should the sting of a ticket ever become the hunger pains of a child,” Hahn said. “While these fines are supposed to serve as a financial deterrent to behavior that puts the public at risk, when unaffordable penalties are imposed and become due immediately, our residents are forced to make decisions that are counter to our values and to the public interest.”

County Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), who serves as chair of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said punitive measures are intended to be teaching moments, rather than a road to economic ruin. She applauded the steps the county was taking in allowing ticketed motorists more time to pay fines.

“I congratulate Legislator Hahn for bringing this issue forward,” Browning said. “As a co-sponsor of the bill, I agree that no one should have to make a choice between putting food on the table for their family or paying a fine. Failure to pay causes a person to have a suspended license and potentially lose their employment. A payment plan for middle and low income residents will benefit the resident and the agency.“

Violators cited in New York City have the option of paying fines through an installment plan which requires that a portion of the fee be paid at the time of conviction, followed by monthly payments, with a 9 percent interest charge until the debt is paid in full. Suffolk’s eventual plan may take a similar form as the SCTPVA develops its own program, Hahn said.

The directive to the SCTPVA now goes to County Executive Steve Bellone for final approval. Then, once the SCTPVA develops its plan, the Legislature will have an opportunity to evaluate the proposal and decide whether to implement it.

“Punishment without mercy does not serve this county or its residents,” Hahn said. “I encourage the county executive to sign this bill as it advances the central tenant of fairness in justice.”

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

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Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn is pushing a bill to make it easier to get rid of leftover medicine. File photo
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn is pushing a bill to make it easier to get rid of leftover medicine. File photo

Since 2011, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) has worked to defend the public’s health and safety. She spearheaded a law to protect our water supply from hazardous plastic materials; worked to eliminate toxic chemicals from toys; preserved open space; and put a lifesaving drug into the hands of our first responders to help them prevent opioid overdoses.

Hahn is accessible to the people she represents, and her ideas are moving the county in the right direction.

Republican challenger Donna Cumella has lived in Suffolk County for 44 years and is quite knowledgeable about the big issues, and we applaud her willingness to serve the community. But Hahn has proven that she takes action to improve her constituents’ quality of life. She should be re-elected to another term.

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Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

By Elana Glowatz

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn said she wants a third term in office to continue working on protecting public health, while Republican challenger Donna Cumella said she wants to focus on Suffolk County’s finances.

Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan
Donna Cumella photo by Desirée Keegan

Hahn (D-Setauket) has spent much of her two terms in the 5th Legislative District on environmental and public safety issues, crafting a bill that put Narcan, an antidote for opioid overdoses, into the hands of first responders and another that set the gears into motion to ban tiny plastic pellets called microbeads that pollute our water supply, among others. But in a recent debate at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office, Cumella said while that work is important, the county’s fiscal state is a more pressing issue.

The challenger, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said county officials, in crafting budgets, habitually overstate county revenues and understate expenses, creating a serious deficit.

“Projections far exceeded what the reality was,” she said, referring specifically to county estimates on sales tax revenue.

She said borrowing is “out of control” and called for a smaller government.

But Hahn fought the idea that the county is spiraling.

“Our debt burden is manageable,” she said, adding that Suffolk tends to pay off its debt quickly and legislators always look for ways to decrease borrowing. About the size of government, she noted that the county has been reduced by about 1,200 positions in the last few years.

Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan
Kara Hahn photo by Desirée Keegan

The incumbent also said that a certain amount of debt is unavoidable, because “you can’t pay cash for everything.”

Cumella and Hahn agreed that neighborhood revitalization is important. The Republican emphasized that the county could get help from state and federal grants to push along the projects. The Democrat stressed that the county needs to grow its number of high-paying jobs and said she has an idea to boost the economy by training workers for technology-based positions at Suffolk County Community College.

There were not many other similarities between the two women. One of the ways the candidates stood apart was on their methods for improving the county’s cash flow. Cumella said the county should be sharing more services with other municipalities, specifically local towns, and Hahn said she has been holding meetings on finding new revenue streams, such as penalizing polluters like those who use certain fertilizers on their lawns.

The legislator is looking for another term because she is “deeply committed to making a difference” and there is still work to be done. She has been working on initiatives to raise awareness of chemicals used in dry cleaning, affecting water quality and public health; to make it easier for people to safely get rid of leftover prescription medication; and to change the way the county addresses domestic violence and its victims.

Cumella, on the other hand, spoke against partisanship in the Legislature and said getting the county’s finances in order will help keep young people on Long Island.

“We need to keep our families together,” she said.

The Friends of Cordwood are trying to preserve the Cordwood Landing Nature preserve. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After years of frustration, the Friends of Cordwood Landing have had enough.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, the group had a rally alongside residents, environmental activists and elected officials to fight for the preservation of a parcel of land next to the Cordwood Landing Nature Preserve, a county park in Miller Place. The rally was held to help the Friends of Cordwood find a different means of acquiring the land after the group hit a standstill with county legislators.

According to Tom Cramer, one of the founding members of Friends of Cordwood Landing, any resolution regarding the purchase of property must go through the county legislator — Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). Cramer said getting in touch with Anker regarding this issue was difficult when he and the Friends of Cordwood attempted to get an appraisal for the property.

The interaction ended with the Friends of Cordwood turning to Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Cramer said Hahn helped the group push the resolution through, and an appraisal was done for the property.

While Cramer said Anker didn’t follow up with the group’s initial resolution proposal, Anker said she did all that she could to assist the organization. The resolution was Anker’s first piece of legislation, according to an email from her office. Her office also said the county did an appraisal of the property. The county offered $783,000 to the original owner of the parcel and the owner refused the offer. In September of 2014, Mark Baisch, the developer, purchased the property for $750,000.

Cramer said Baisch asked for $1.25 million for the approximately 5.5-acre property, and they increased the appraisal to $930,000. After Baisch refused this offer, Cramer claims Anker said Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were in collusion with one another and were attempting to defraud the county. Cramer said they were not.

Anker denied the idea that Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were working together.

With the tension between those involved, Baisch refused to sell the property to the county and is currently in the process of going through the town to handle the matter. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the rally last Thursday. According to Cramer and Bonner, Romaine was promising to pay 30 to 35 percent of the property’s cost.

“In our mind, it’s illogical to build houses near a nature preserve,” Bonner said about Baisch’s plan to put houses on the property. She added that the wildlife in the area would be affected.

In a phone interview, Anker said her goal was to help preserve the property, as it is one of the last few tracks of land in the North Shore area that needs to be preserved. According to Cramer, many residents thought the property was part of the Cordwood Landing county park, which lies adjacent to the piece of property.

Now it’s simply a waiting game, as Baisch waits for his plan for the property to be approved by the town.

Bonner said the town is working on it.

“We are ready, willing and able partners … [the property] has always been on our radar,” Bonner said in a phone interview. “It will make a wonderful addition to the Cordwood Landing.”

From left, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie pose for a photo with historical documents. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He is not only the first African-American Speaker of the New York State Assembly, but also the first speaker to visit various districts on Long Island, as far as one long-standing North Shore lawmaker can remember.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) visited Setauket on Oct. 20, and met with residents and North Shore government officials, including Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station); and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“This happens about once every … well, it never has happened,” Englebright joked. “It’s pretty amazing.”

While touring the area was on Heastie’s agenda, his visit was also about getting better acquainted with the needs and concerns of residents in areas like Setauket, he said.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stands in front of Patriots Rock. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stands in front of Patriots Rock. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“When members get up and speak in conference, when they talk about what’s important to them or where they want us to concentrate or try to do things in the budget … [visiting the districts gives] me a better idea of what they’re speaking about,” Heastie said in an interview.

Heastie was elected Speaker of the NYS Assembly on Feb. 3. Since his election, Heastie has tackled a variety of issues including education, homelessness, financial stability for families and minimum wage, among other areas of concern.

The speaker also has ties to the greater North Shore community, as he graduated from Stony Brook University in 1990 with a degree in science. State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) was recently named the Senate majority leader, making the North Shore’s presence strong in the state Legislature.

Although Heastie had limited time to mingle, Englebright guided Heastie around various areas in Setauket, touring the community’s coveted Greenway  Trail, and introducing him to the history of the region and the role it played in the birth of the United States, starting with Patriot’s Rock in Setauket, where the famous Battle of Setauket was fought.

Officials from Stony Brook University library were on hand to deliver the speaker a copy of a famous letter George Washington signed at West Point during the Revolutionary War.

“I used to teach political science and American history,” Heastie said. “So I’m kind of a history buff. It’s just something that was a little different than other parts of the tour, so this was nice — particularly with it being so close to the college that I graduated from.”

After learning about Long Island’s link to the Culper Spy Ring, dating back to the Revolutionary War era, the speaker stopped at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, followed by a visit to Gallery North in Setauket.

Throughout the visit, Englebright and other North Shore leaders used their time with the speaker to reiterate some of the region’s most pressing issues, including preservation and environmental sustainability. Englebright also reaffirmed Heastie’s desire to tour the districts as a means of helping those he represents and serves as speaker.

“He’s very interested in visiting the various districts and learning of what his members are working on,” Englebright said. “I’m one of his senior members, and I’m very grateful he wants to come out and see what are the things I’m really focused on in the district.”

Legislator Kara Hahn speaks about the harmful effects of microbeads on Tuesday. Photo from Hahn’s office

A push in the Suffolk County Legislature to ban the sale of personal care products containing microbeads was met with unanimous approval on Tuesday, as state and federal lawmakers are also signing on to the cause.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) celebrated the unanimous vote on Tuesday for legislation crafted with the goal of washing the county free of the tiny, potentially hazardous plastic particles linked to several issues affecting waterways. She stood alongside environmental experts at the county Legislature building in Riverhead, referring to the new ban as a means of keeping Long Island and its surrounding waterways safe.

“There is no place for plastics in our vulnerable bays and waterways,” said Hahn, chair of the Legislature’s Environment Committee and author of the bill. “Microbeads have been found in our precious Long Island Sound, and my legislation will protect our environment, protect our health and protect our fishing and tourism industries.”

Microbeads, which are usually between one and five millimeters in diameter, are typically not filtered out by most wastewater treatment systems. This poses the risk of the tiny beads making their way into surface waters, picking up toxins as they flow from one source to the next. Because of their tiny size, the toxin-laden particles can sometimes be mistaken for food by small fish and other aquatic species.

But it does not end there.

Once the aquatic life consumes the potentially harmful microbeads, they could then make their way into larger living organisms and eventually into the human food supply.

The county legislation said that manufacturers of several personal care products have added the small plastic beads to their facial scrubs, body washes, toothpaste products and select soaps and shampoos over the past 10 years. Now that it has passed, Hahn’s law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, and prohibit the sale of any personal care products that contain microbeads in Suffolk County.

Six months before that deadline, Hahn said the Department of Health Services will begin informing retailers selling products that contain microbeads of the new regulations, and enforcement will come through random inspections of at least 10 retailers per quarter in 2018. Anyone who violates the law will be subject to a civil fine of up to $500 for a first offense, a fine of up to $750 for a second offense and a fine of up to $1,000 for all subsequent violations.

Microbead legislation has been gaining traction beyond the Suffolk County level over the past year, with elected officials on both the state and federal levels stepping up to promote the ban of such products. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman visited Long Island over the summer to announce the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, a bipartisan federal bill that would also ban cosmetics containing the plastic pellets.

Gillibrand’s bill had sponsors and co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, most of them from the Midwest, according to a press release from the senator’s office. It is similar to a New York state-level bill of the same name, which is Schneiderman’s effort to prohibit the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads.

Officials gather to see the cesspool at Alan Marvin’s house in Nesconset on Thursday, Sept. 24. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone (D) gathered with public officials and members of the community on Thursday to celebrate the third annual national SepticSmart Week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SepticSmart Week, which runs from Sept. 21 to 25, is a nationally-recognized week meant to inform and encourage homeowners on how to properly maintain their septic systems.

Suffolk County officials also hope this week will educate homeowners on how their septic systems impact local water quality.

“It’s a time to focus on the issues that are and haven driven water quality, and the issues that allow us to reverse the decline we’ve seen in our water quality,” Bellone said.

Suffolk County currently has 360,000 unsewered lots with cesspools and septic systems that contribute to nitrogen pollution in the county’s surface and groundwater, according to a statement from Bellone’s office. More innovative wastewater septic systems and updated programs will help reverse the decades of decline in the county’s water, the county executive said.

“This is a testament to the importance of this problem,” Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D- Setauket) said. “Nitrogen is seeping into our groundwater and reeking havoc.”

Bellone’s “Reclaim Our Water” initiative is one that partners with the liquid waste industry to overhaul the county’s liquid waste licensing program. Changes proposed to the licensing process would require training and continuing education for the many specialized services within the liquid waste field.

“These proposed training and requirements will create accountability and increase consumer confidence, as property owners can be assured that the company they hire has been trained to best service the specific septic system they have and protect Suffolk County’s ground water,” according to a statement from Bellone’s office.

Bellone said a partnership Suffolk County has developed with the Long Island Liquid Waste Association is helping improve relationships between the private sector and their customers in water waste management.

“It’s making sure the private sector is set with the tools they need to help homeowners with these new advanced waste water septic systems,” Bellone said.

Other members of Suffolk County government were excited by the new water quality initiatives.

“We’re involved in a historic initiative in Suffolk County to address a serious threat to our environment and our economy,” Peter Scully, deputy county executive for water quality said. “We’re always happy and anxious to work with the private sector on solutions.”

This event was held at Nesconset resident Alan Marvin’s home. Officials inspected Marvin’s cesspool and observed how it had changed over time.

Marvin said he was lucky to be have been chosen because he learned afterwards that his septic system is set to overflow by December, and he would have had to call for emergency services. He said he was not aware of that.

“It’s an important issue,” he said. “I don’t think most homeowners realize when they go to the bathroom what it affects. This is a good way for Suffolk County residents to learn.”

Kara Hahn’s prescription medicine take-back proposal aims to enhance Long Island’s drinking water quality

A two-tiered piece of legislation on the county level is looking to tackle some of Long Island’s most pressing issues, from the medicine counter to the waterways, all in one fell swoop.

A proposal to establish a drug stewardship program throughout the county could potentially build upon existing drug take-back programs, playing off recent legislation enacted in Alameda County, California, and ultimately keep drugs out of our drinking water, lawmakers said. Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) introduced the piece of legislation earlier this summer with hopes of providing residents with more convenient ways to get rid of their unused medicine before the county’s next general meeting in October.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn is pushing a bill to make it easier to get rid of leftover medicine. File photo
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn is pushing a bill to make it easier to get rid of leftover medicine. File photo

“This is a duel benefit,” Hahn said. “I’ve wanted to find a way to get pharmacies to be required to take back prescription drugs, and this doesn’t quite require that, but it could be an end result.”

The local law proposal argued that while pharmaceuticals are essential to the treatment of illnesses and long-term conditions, residents at large still do not dispose of them properly, running the risk of certain drugs ending up in public drinking water supplies and causing harm to the environment. And with Suffolk County sitting on top of a sole source aquifer, which provides residents with necessary drinking water, Hahn argued that protecting the aquifer was critical to the health and safety of Long Island as a whole.

“The idea is to begin a discussion on this. Federal regulations have changed to allow pharmacies to take back certain drugs, but the state level has been dragging their feet on the local regulations in order to make this possible here,” Hahn said. “They can’t drag their feet any longer. All kinds of medicines are being found in our water when our health inspectors do their sampling. We have to find a way on both these fronts to control what is happening.”

The legislator said she was playing off the recently passed law in California, which also established a drug product stewardship policy requiring manufacturers to design and fund collection programs for medications. Similar programs have also sprouted up in Canada, France, Spain and Portugal.

A spokesman for Hahn said the bill would essentially establish a manufacturer-administered pharmaceutical take-back program that would provide residents with convenient ways to safely and environmentally responsibly dispose of expired and unneeded medications.

“This program, if adopted, will primarily impact and improve water quality rather than deal with drug abuse,” Seth Squicciarino, the spokesman, said. “However, it is reasonable to assume that if there are less unused, unneeded and forgotten prescription drugs in medicine cabinets, it could reduce drug experimentation especially among first time users.”

Currently, residents’ only course of action when looking to properly dispose of unused medicine is to bring their prescriptions to the 4th Precinct or 6th Precinct of the Suffolk County Police Department, which then dumps the drugs into an incinerator — which Hahn described as the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of drugs right now.