By Kathryn G. Menu
It has been 27 years since the concept of remediating the stormwater drainage ditch leading to Sag Harbor’s lone bathing beach, Havens Beach, was first broached by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees. Despite moments in village history where trustees were poised to move forward with one of several versions of the project, designed largely to contend with runoff contaminants, the remediation never moved forward.
Until now, that is.
On Friday, February 15, during a special meeting, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, voted to go out to bid on the Havens Beach remediation project, designed by the village’s environmental planning consultants, Inter-Science Research Associates.
The project involves dredging muck out of the ditch, regrading it and filling it with clean sand and native vegetation. It will create a wetland, which will provide bio-filtration for any stormwater runoff funneled to the ditch from the 138-acre watershed.
The second component of the plan is to install one AbTech Smart Sponge Plus filtration vault at the end of the ditch closest to the discharge point into Sag Harbor Bay. Originally the proposal contained two vaults – with a first vault at the beginning of the ditch near Hempstead Street, but the plan was scaled back as it was formalized.
The Smart Sponge Plus filters, unlike the Smart Sponge – which absorbs hydrocarbons like motor oil – actually absorbs bacteria, providing an extra layer of protection from stormwater runoff contaminants.
Two catch basins have already been installed at the Hempstead Street entrance to the ditch as a part of the plan.
Developing a remediation plan for Havens Beach has been something discussed by the village board off and on over the last two decades. Periodically, stormwater runoff from the ditch has resulted in elevated bacterial levels in the bathing beach waters, and as a precaution, Havens Beach is often closed to swimming by the Suffolk County Department of Health after any large rain event. Reports of ear and eye infections, as well as rashes, by swimmers have been reported throughout the years, and concerns over the impact stormwater runoff is having on the water quality at the site has been an issue raised by environmental watch dog groups, like the Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister.
According to Richard Warren, president of Inter-Science, last Wednesday the village received word from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that dredge spoils connected to the remediation can be discarded similarly to road sweepings, at the transfer station.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride had hoped to go to bid on the project before the new year. The DEC, however, asked the village to collect and test samples of dredge spoils to ensure it was safe to dispose of locally.
On Tuesday, Warren said that while the village does not yet have the permit from the DEC in hand, he has been told it is being written by the state agency.
The village board of trustees is expected to open bids for the project on Thursday, March 7. Mayor Gilbride said he hopes to award the bid at the village board’s March 12 meeting.
The project is estimated to cost between $200,000 and $275,000, although according to Mike Schiano with Inter-Science, those are rough estimates and the true cost will be revealed when the bids are opened.
“There are a lot of variables,” said Schiano. “But the good thing is there is a good amount of funding both from the state and county, so even if it costs more, the majority of the project will be funded with help from other government agencies.”
The project is the recipient of a matching grant from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program (WQPRP), entitling the village to $147,500 in the form of a matching grant.
On Wednesday, Schiano said the project would also likely receive funding from the State of New York.
For Mayor Gilbride — in his 19th year on the village board and unsure if he will seek another term — seeing this project completed during his tenure as mayor has been his primary goal.
“I think it is time for us to finally get this project done and move on,” he said. “The residents have waited long enough.”