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Waste

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.

File photo

The waste is hazardous, but the accomplishment is healthy.

The Town of Smithtown marked a major milestone this week as it wrapped up its regular household hazardous waste collection event on April 23, clocking in a new record of more than 76 tons of hazardous materials being sent to safe disposal sites.

The event was held with help from Radiac Research Corporation in Brooklyn, which won the contract for the specialized and regulated event through a competitive bidding process, town officials said. Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said the town paid $15,694 to run the event, but will be reimbursed one-half the cost by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The success of our household hazardous waste collection program continues to grow,” Vecchio said. “Participating in a household hazardous waste collection event allows people to clean out their garages and basements, and safely dispose of old chemicals. It also heightens awareness that not everything offered for sale is a good thing to buy and use around our homes and families.”

By the end of the April 23 event, Smithtown tallied 716 families participating, resulting in 152,905 pounds of household hazardous material being collected. The most notable items, the town said, included decades-old bottles of long banned pesticides. Additional materials included oil-based paints, gasoline, paint thinners, waste gases, degreaser, solvents, flammable solids, liquid and solid oxiders, acids, corrosives, miscellaneous toxic liquids and solids, lacquers and various toxic compounds.

The town holds events like this annually to help ensure safe and proper disposal of such hazardous materials. If disposed of improperly, they can be damaging to the environment or to human health.

Smithtown has been regularly hosting such events to residents since 2009. Over time, the town said, the amount of material collected has increased more than tenfold.

“We should all try to minimize or avoid buying toxic products in the first place,” Vecchio said.

The next Smithtown hazardous waste collection event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Municipal Services Facility located at 85 Old Northport Road in Kings Park.

Officials celebrate the installation of a denitrifying septic system in Nesconset in 2015. Photo from Bellone’s office

Nineteen households won, but one winner on Laura Court in Nesconset was the first to reap the benefits.

The county installed its first advanced on-site septic system last Thursday, Aug. 20, via the Suffolk County Advanced Septic Pilot Program Lottery as part of the Reclaim Our Water initiative to improve water quality, restore natural storm barriers and implement on-site wastewater treatment systems. County Executive Steve Bellone (D) called it a significant step in improving the quality of water on Long Island.

“This pilot program will demonstrate the benefits of protecting one of our great natural resources and will provide individual homeowners as well as the rest of Suffolk County an opportunity to improve both the environment of their homes as well as that of Suffolk County,” he said.

The 19 systems were donated by four national manufacturers: Hydro-Action Industries, BUSSE Green Technologies, Norweco and Orenco Systems. The advanced wastewater treatment systems are valued at up to $15,000 per system.

Town and state officials oppose plans to continue dumping dredge waste into the Long Island Sound. File photo

Town and state officials gathered at Cedar Beach on Monday in opposition to the plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue dumping dredge waste into the Long Island Sound.

The organizations were dumping dredge spoils into the Connecticut River, which spills into the Sound. According to Sen. Ken LaValle spokesman Greg Blower, town and state officials are not sure what chemicals or sediments were disposed of in the river, especially with the variety of manufacturing facilities around that area.

Ten years ago, the organizations were asked to create a plan that would propose an alternative area where they could dump the waste. Officials including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) received the plan at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to Anthony Graves, the town’s chief environmental analyst.

Originally, the officials only had seven days to make public comment on the 1,300-page plan, but after Romaine brought this into question, the date was altered, allowing people to make their comments until Oct. 5.

Graves said the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA were told in 2005 to create this report, which didn’t address the concerns of town and state officials. According to Bonner, those organizations recommended continuing to deposit the waste in the Sound.

Bonner said, “We have better technology now and we know dredge spoils can be repurposed for capping landfills.”

While there are alternative dumping sites, such as abandoned mines and landfills, Romaine said the organizations opted for a cheaper way.

“The only reason why the Army Corps of Engineers is recommending it is because it’s the cheapest method,” Romaine said. “Shame on them.”

Romaine said the spoils have compromised marine life, including a decline in the fish and shellfish population. He added that the spoils are most heavily contributing to the lobster die-off in the water. Even though the dumping of the waste is from Connecticut, Romaine said, “water bodies like the Sound don’t respect state boundary lines.”

According to Graves, around $1.7 million was spent cleaning the Sound. LaValle said these efforts were a waste of money because the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA continued to dump dredge waste in the water during the cleanup.

“The two measures really don’t make sense and we have spent 10 years and all that money,” LaValle said. “[It] shows lack of common sense. I think the only thing it did was keep some researchers occupied for 10 years.”

There are two local public hearings, one on Monday, Aug. 24, in Port Jefferson’s Village Center and the other on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale. There will also be hearings in Connecticut.

Registration is required to attend the meetings, and comments can be forwarded no later than Oct. 5.

“We live on an island,” Romaine said. “Many of the waterways on our island are already impacted. We don’t need any more impaired waterways. We need to start improving the Long Island Sound.”

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Hydrangea macrophylla. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

In many of my previous columns, I’ve talked about the benefits of using compost and compost tea on your plants. Let’s start with some basic information on what compost is and how to make it.

Compost is decayed organic matter. It’s full of nutrients and makes a great fertilizer for plants. Compost aerates clay soil and helps to hold moisture in sandy soil, so it improves soil structure. Making your own compost keeps waste out of the land fill. It also ensures that you can keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the compost and therefore out of your soil.

There are two types of compost piles, hot and cold. The hot pile raises the temperature of the ingredients to at least 135 degrees. There are several benefits of a hot compost pile. One is that many damaging organisms, like plant bacteria, are killed in a hot pile. Another is that the hot pile decomposes more quickly. Add equal parts green and brown matter, grass clippings and dry leaves, for example, all finely chopped and mixed together. Smaller pieces will decompose more quickly than larger ones. Add some manure in the ratio of 1/3 to 2/3 plant matter for a hot pile or add some blood and bone fertilizer.

A cold compost pile takes longer to decompose, but you need to be less concerned with ratios, manure, etc. Never put diseased leaves in a cold pile. You’re just saving the disease organisms for the next season. Actually, I never put diseased plant parts in any compost pile, just to be on the safe side. Make sure that you keep the compost pile moist or the plant matter will not decompose. Think about the Egyptian mummies, in the desert for thousands of years, yet not decomposed. Periodically turn the pile over. If you use one of the rotating composters on a stand, this step is very easy.

What goes in the compost pile? Any healthy green plant matter, but not woody as it takes too long to decompose, and lawn clippings; coffee grounds and used tea bags; paper towels; and kitchen peelings including apple cores, orange peels, etc. — keep a closed container in the kitchen to collect them and then periodically bring them out to the garden — crushed eggshells and manure from herbivores, such as cows and horses.

Do not add protein, such as leftover meat, which draws critters and is slow to decompose; fatty substances; manure from carnivores, such as dogs and cats, as it can transmit disease; and diseased plant parts.

Compost can be applied as a top dressing or lightly dug into the soil, being careful to avoid surface roots of plants. It can also be mixed into the soil when you transplant or add a new plant to the garden.

If you choose not to make your own compost, but acquire it from other sources, remember that you don’t know what has been used to make that compost. It may be exactly as you would make yourself or not. If you are keeping a strictly organic garden, this can be a problem. For example, whoever made the compost may have used insecticides on the plant matter or weed killers. I used to get compost from a local free source only to find pieces of broken glass in it along with pieces of wire. So, always wear your gardening gloves to protect your hands.

Next week, making compost tea.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.