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Sag Harbor Village Investigates Boats Dumping Waste

Posted on 16 July 2010

Sag Harbor Village Harbor Master Bob Bori has received complaints this summer about sewage being dumped by boats into village waters, and according to Harbor Committee member and dock master of Sag Harbor’s Waterfront Marina, Nancy Haynes, it appears those complaints are not unfounded.

During a Harbor Committee meeting on July 12, Bori reported that, in response to a number of complaints, the village has sent letters to area marinas and begun speaking with the pump out boat captains to ascertain who is dumping their waste into village waters.

According to Bori, the complaints have been about water inside the breakwater, seaward of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and Sag Harbor Yacht Yard. Bori added local yacht clubs and marinas have been more than helpful trying to aid the effort.

“After speaking to the pump out guys, they said there are a couple of boats that never utilize their services,” said Bori, noting it is pretty easy to determine who has, and more importantly who has not, being using the pump out boats to discharge their sewage and waste water. He added if the village gets another complaint Southampton Town Trustee Chairman Jon Semlear is already on board to help remedy the situation, agreeing to take samples to Riverhead for further insight.

Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait said there has been quite a bit of algae in the water as of late, but Haynes said she has seen what looks like pump out sewage, strangely turning up often on Wednesdays, then clearing up as the week progresses.

“We need more compliance,” said Tait, encouraging Bori’s investigation. “The pump-out boats have the best eyes. They know who is doing what and who is not.”

The Harbor Committee declined comment on a discussion about Matthew and Sarah Hastings proposed to demolish their 19 Notre Dame Road residence and rebuild anew with a new septic system, noting there is an ongoing ownership dispute between the Village of Sag Harbor and the Hastings over a 20-foot piece of property adjacent to their parcel.

Susanna Herman, of En Consultants in North Sea, said she brought the matter to the Harbor Committee not to discuss the dispute, but rather get their feedback on the application, which would remove an old septic system likely sitting in ground water and replace it with a new, elevated septic system during construction.

The dispute revolves around an adjacent strip of land the Hastings maintain they believed was a part of their property, haven been used for decades as parking for the residents of 19 Notre Dame Road. Realizing it was not a part of the property, and needing the property for proper setbacks for the new sanitation system, an attorney for the Hastings reached out to a descendent of the original owner and obtained a quit claim deed to the 20-foot parcel. Village officials have countered they believe the strip of land was meant as access to the waterfront, not meant to be incorporated into the Hastings property and have since cleared the lot, vowing to fight for it on behalf of village residents.

Board member Dr. Tom Halton, a resident of Redwood – where Notre Dame Road is located – produced a map for Herman that he later said he received from a neighbor showing blacked out portions reserved for access to the water. The parcel in question was blacked out on that map, which he said he has submitted to village administrator Sandra Schroeder.

“The [Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan] dictates we preserve access to the water so this committee should be involved with this on some basis,” he said.

Herman did note that across the way from the Hastings residence is a large access point, and to access the beachfront the parcel in question would require residents to hop a large bulkhead into marshland.

“No one is, at least conveniently without getting wet or muddy, accessing the water from that bulkhead,” she said.

Dr. Halton wondered why a compromise could not be reached, allowing public access and the Hastings’ development.

Herman said they have in fact developed a plan that would create a four-foot wide public access walkway through the parcel to the bulkhead, which she added could be improved with a bench.

“It seems like it is going to be a long time before this comes to us,” said Tait, adding the ownership issue, in addition to variances from the zoning board of appeals, will be necessary before they can weigh in.

“We want to be proactively working towards a solution,” said Herman. “We are not trying to greedily grab 20 feet of property that does not belong to the Hastings.”

“Right now, it’s all above our pay scale,” said Tait.

Village environmental planning consultant Richard Warren suggested the board stay out of the matter until ownership has been decided and suggested Herman share these plans with the village attorney.

“We can’t give any feedback on the unknown,” said Haynes.

In other news, John Bjornen and Joseph Cornetta were approved for a pool at their 5 Morris Cove Lane property, although plans for a dock have been put on hold until next month while committee members take a look at the site in question and ensure navigation is not impeded by the construction.

Tait said he was also in touch with representatives from Exxon Mobil in regards to oil that has resurfaced amid rising water tables in the village on Bay Street near a former fuel depot where remediation of spilled petroleum was conducted in the 1990s.

In April, Tait was one of several witnesses to streams of oil and water that bubbled up from the ground and flowed down Bay Street.

According to Tait, seaward of the village’s sewage treatment plant he has noticed a sheen on the water, although he added it could be the result of one of the last remaining bulkhead constructed of oil-treated wood.

Tait said he will be meeting with Exxon Mobil officials next week and is expecting to hear the results of their investigation into the source of the oil.

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