Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister

Posted on 09 May 2012

Baykeeper

The Peconic Baykeeper talks about water quality, what communities need to do to protect bays and why if we don’t start soon it could be too late.

It’s the start of the season and we have already discovered a case of biotoxin in shellfish meat in Sag Harbor Cove. Is this a grim foretelling of what is to come?

It is probably too early to say, but the fact that this has shown up for the first time in Sag Harbor Cove is concerning. We have certainly seen trends throughout the Peconics with both red and brown tides popping up. The south shore of Shinnecock Bay has had red and brown tides for five years running and now we have the same algae in Sag Harbor Cove. We have to take this very seriously.

Ultimately, what is harming our water so much?

It’s nitrogen. I think locally, groundwater is a significant contributor. A majority of the fresh water that enters our estuaries is coming from our groundwater, which has been impacted by the overdevelopment of this region. This kind of density with the use of cesspool systems has led to too much nitrogen in our waters. Another contributor, of course, is stormwater runoff and in Sag Harbor we have seen a perfect case of the kind of impact that can have at Havens Beach.

What can we do to change things in a substantive way?

Number one is we have to acknowledge that our waters are being threatened and are degrading. Second, we have to invest ourselves on many levels to make improvements in wastewater treatment. There are state-of-the-art wastewater treatment options available that significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen pollution entering our bays. We also have to make an investment in addressing stormwater discharge.

Sag Harbor is a waterfront destination with an economy very much tied to that attribute. What are some of the things you think this village can do to protect what is a valuable resource?

I think from a village level it is important they make the necessary investment into stormwater management. We have a plan for Havens Beach. It’s time to commit to implementing that plan for remediation.

Next week you will host a paddle race to benefit the Baykeeper organization. How does getting out on the water promote these causes?

When you utilize a resource it becomes harder to take it for granted.

So, ultimately, paddle boarding at Havens Beach is safe, right?

Yes. There is no subliminal plot to highlight Sag Harbor, but Havens Beach is an important resource that we hold dear. Outside of its recreational value, just think about the economic value the engine that is Sag Harbor Bay and the Peconic Bay is for our region. It will be a sad day if because of apathy we let those waters degrade to the point where we have to spend a tremendous amount of money to get them back. We are on a cusp now and we have to get on board quickly because five, 10 or 20 years out we will be in a far worse place if we are not paying attention and advocating for our waters.

The Stand-Up Paddle Race for the Baykeeper will be held on May 19 at 9:30 a.m. with registration starting at 8 a.m. Rentals will be available. For more information, contact 653-4804.

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