Harbor Committee Approves Cleanup of Toxic Gas Ball Site

Posted on 12 September 2008

With one member absent and another abstaining, the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee gave its stamp of approval to the remediation of coal tar from the land under the former KeySpan Hortonsphere, paving the way for the cleanup project to commence in a week’s time.

On Monday, September 8 harbor committee chairman Bruce Tait broached the subject with the rest of the board, noting it was his belief that the village has done enough to ensure the ecology of Sag Harbor will not be negatively affected by the cleanup plan.

The project calls for the removal of coal tar, a byproduct of manufacturing gas on the site, which occurred from 1859 through 1931 when gas production ceased. The remediation plan involves the removal of 10 to 15 feet of soil throughout the site. Due to the high water table in the area, water will have to be removed from the soil, treated and pumped clean through a pipe that will traverse the bottom of Sag Harbor Cove and Sag Harbor Bay and dispense just past the breakwater near North Haven. It is expected the project will generate between 500,000 and a million gallons of fresh, treated water daily during the eight month process.

The fill, in the meantime, will be trucked to a DEC approved landfill. No more than 20 trucks a day are expected during the height of the excavation, according to DEC officials.

“What proof did they give you that all that fresh water is not going to hurt the salt water,” asked harbor committee member Jeff Peters.

Tait reminded Peters that the village hired independent consultants to oversee salinity monitoring performed by National Grid consultants in an effort to prove the project would not dilute the salt water, but that flushing outside the breakwater is strong enough and can accommodate enough fresh water to protect the ecology of the bay. Village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren agreed with the findings of the study — which showed no impact on the bay.

Tait added the filtration systems used to clean the water will be monitored by a number of agencies, including the harbor committee.

“They are required by law to have clean, potable water,” he said.

Tait did allow that the project is fairly “low tech,” and a “stinky, messy job.”

“I’ve been going to these meetings for months and months and months now and I am convinced this is the best option that has been put in front of the village,” he said. Other viable options, he added, included simply paving the site over, which he called “a bit of sticking your head in the sand.”

“Let’s get it out of here,” said committee member George Pharoah.

Pharoah, Tait and committee member Nancy Haynes voted that they found the project consistent with the LWRP with Peters abstaining, stating he felt he needed more information on the plan. Committee member Brian Halweil was absent from the meeting.

In other news, the board discussed the proposed revisions to the village code, which includes stricter wetlands ordinances, and a change that gives the harbor committee instead of the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees the authority to approve wetlands applications. The board of trustees introduced the wetlands section of the code on Tuesday, September 9, and will hold a public hearing at its October meeting.

In addition to giving the harbor committee more authority in this matter, it also gives them more teeth, increasing a suggested vegetation buffer from 25-feet to 75-feet for the construction of any structure near wetlands.

Tait suggested the board take the next month to review the regulations.

Sag Harbor Business Association member Ted Conklin said he attended the meeting to reaffirm the association’s support of the harbor committee and their involvement in the construction of the new zoning code, in particular where it involves the waterfront district.

The waterfront district is not a part of the wetlands regulations introduced by the board, or the extended powers the harbor committee is expected to gain should the new code be adopted.

Regardless, Conklin said he has questions about whether or not the uses of businesses on the waterfront can be controlled to ensure it is an appropriate use.

“I would like to see the harbor committee say it is not appropriate to have a sewing supply store down there,” he said as an example, preferring something like a sail maker, or another business that complimented the waterfront.

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