Tag Archive | "Havens Beach"

Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach Remediation Earns Suffolk County Grant

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sag Harbor Village’s plan to implement a remediation plan for the drainage ditch leading to Havens Beach got a shot in the arm on Tuesday morning, with the village board of trustees completing its environmental review of the project, literal decades in the making.

The project, if ultimately approved by the only remaining agency – the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – will also be the recipient of a matching grant from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program (WQPRP), entitling the village to $147,500 provided the village kicks in the same amount.

The board of trustees passed a resolution on Tuesday morning agreeing to do just that, giving the project $295,000 in funding.

The Havens Beach project has been estimated to cost anywhere from $250,000 to $275,000, although Mayor Brian Gilbride said on Tuesday often estimates come in lower then the bids the village will seek when it earns the DEC’s final stamp of approval. If necessary, said Gilbride, the village will reach into a $1.2 million projects fund it has set aside, primarily for the Havens Beach project, as well as the maintenance of Long Wharf.

According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, he expects to introduce a resolution next Tuesday at the Suffolk County Legislature to sell Long Wharf — technically a county road — to Sag Harbor Village for $1. For two years now, the county has attempted to do just that, but only with the election of County Executive Steve Bellone seemed to find accord with the transfer. While the transfer of ownership will ensure the village’s control over Long Wharf, it also comes with a hefty maintenance price tag. In 2010 the county’s department of public works estimates the wharf needed some $600,000 in repairs, a figure Gilbride noted has likely grown in the last 24 months.

The Havens Beach project remains a top priority, said Gilbride. The project aims to reduce toxins entering the ditch, and the bathing beach, by dredging the muck filled ditch, filling it with clean sand and native vegetation and installing a mechanical filter unit at the mouth of the ditch where it meets the beach.

Other drainage projects associated with the water shed are also proposed and on Tuesday Gilbride said Sag Harbor, along with most waterfront communities in Suffolk County, are going to have to spend more money on stormwater runoff abatement and drainage projects.

Memorial for Trenny Lynn Lowey

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A Memorial will be held for Trenny Lynn Lowey on April 29, 2012. Ms. Lowey passed on November 26, 2011 from a severe asthma attack. There will be a prayer service at Havens Beach located off Bay Street in Sag Harbor at 12:30 Followed by a gathering at Phao located at 29 Main Street, Sag Harbor from 1 to 3:30. There will be a cash bar with any proceeds to be donated to an asthma organization in Ms. Lowey’s name.

Harbor Committee Signs Off on Havens Beach Clean-up

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For close to two decades, the Village of Sag Harbor has been debating water quality issues at Havens Beach, and particularly in the ditch that carries much of the water draining throughout the village into Sag Harbor Bay.

After Monday night, a plan several years in the making to address contamination in the dreen and create a better filtration system for stormwater runoff became one step closer to becoming a reality. During the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee meeting, that board deemed the concept, developed by Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, as being consistent with the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

Almost a year ago, Warren pitched his idea for how to address the potential for stormwater runoff contamination at Havens Beach after several years of debate and research.

It involves restoring a wetland area in the ditch itself by removing 1,550 cubic yards of silt and muck, and filling the ditch with clean sand and native wetland vegetation creating natural bio-filtration. According to Warren, that will help slow the velocity and flow rate of water entering the ditch after a rainstorm, and will help absorb pollutants like nitrates and phosphates before they can enter Sag Harbor Bay.

At the north end of the ditch, closest to Havens Beach, a concrete vault is proposed and would hold 300 Smart Sponge Plus SmartPaks — the only Environmental Protection Agency approved filter to handle the removal of bacteria from water. That mechanized filtration would be a second layer of protection, said Warren.

He has also proposed drainage improvements, including a new catch basin, at the south end of the ditch near Hempstead Street.

On Monday night, the Harbor Committee commended Warren and said the plan was consistent with several aspects of the LWRP. Specifically, the project aims to protect and improve water quality, said chairman Bruce Tait citing policies within the LWRP, and minimizes non-point pollution of coastal waters. It also protects the quality and function of an ecosystem in the village, he said, and by making the beach safer, opens up more recreational activities for residents.

“It’s long overdue,” said Tait.

According to Warren, he is still awaiting approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, but hopes that approval will be handed down soon. Warren said he would like to see the dredging of the ditch happen sometime this winter, and ideally would like to see the project completed before the start of another busy summer season.

Plans for Havens Beach Remediation Estimated Around $207,000

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Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has two major projects he would like to see accomplished before the end of his second term — the remediation of stormwater runoff contamination in the dreen that lets out into Havens Beach, and the bulkhead project to prevent further erosion on West Water Street.

If Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting was any indication, Mayor Gilbride will likely meet both goals.

Sag Harbor Village Planning Consultant Rich Warren was given permission to move forward with the permitting process for the remediation of the dreen at Havens Beach after a lengthy presentation on the scope and potential cost of a project over a decade in the making.

Six months ago, Warren presented preliminary plans to the village board outlining what his firm believes will be the most effective solution to manage bacteria in the dreen, created largely by stormwater runoff. The proposal combined the use of bio-filtration through a restored wetland in the ditch itself, as well as mechanized filtration, but Tuesday Warren said the plan has evolved slightly.

After studying the site for six months, with the aid of surveyor Michael Hemmer and engineer Steven Maresca, Warren said the final plan was devised after the team developed an understanding of the true topography and hydraulics of the site.

The final plan involves dredging approximately 1,550 cubic yards of silt and muck that sits at the bottom of the ditch, thereby slightly altering the slope into the ditch. Clean sand will fill the ditch and once it is clean, will be planted with wetland vegetation, creating natural bio-filtration. Warren said the system will help slow the velocity and flow rate of water entering the ditch after a rainstorm, and absorb pollutants like nitrates and phosphates before they can enter Sag Harbor Bay.

At the north end of the dreen, near the discharge point at Havens Beach, a concrete vault containing 300 Smart Sponge Plus SmartPaks — the only Environmental Protection Agency approved filter to handle the removal of bacteria from water — is proposed to add a second layer of filtration.

In addition, on the south end of the ditch near Hempstead Street, a new catch basin will be connected to an existing catch basin, with new piping also installed and the whole system re-pitched to allow for better water flow into the dreen. Warren originally planned to place a second filter unit on the south end of the ditch, but the topography prevented that. Instead the filter unit on the north end will be larger than originally planned.

Engineering is also planned on the north end of the ditch to aid in the proper flow of water into the filtration unit and out into Sag Harbor Bay.

Warren estimated the project will cost $207,000, although he stressed that was a ballpark figure and not necessarily the final cost. The more expensive aspects of the project involve purchasing the Smart Sponge Plus SmartPaks, which will initially cost around $75,000. According to Warren, the Smart Sponge SmartPaks will need to be replaced on a rotating basis, which could cost about $20,000 annually.

Warren added that after initial talks with Suffolk County, there may be grant funding available to offset the cost to the village.

Both the county and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appear supportive of the plan, and after receiving approval to apply for permits, Warren said he believed this could be a plan implemented as early as next spring.

“I think we are ready to move forward,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride.

The Sag Harbor Village Board also received a presentation from Warren on a proposal to bulkhead a section of West Water Street to prevent erosion on the beachfront from threatening a section of roadway.

Last week, the village’s Harbor Committee — without the support of its chairman Bruce Tait — found the project inconsistent with the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

On Tuesday, Warren said he had furnished a report to the Harbor Committee showing the plan was consistent with the LWRP as well as the village’s Harbor Management Plan. The Harbor Committee, he added, did cite policies within the LWRP in its decision to find the project inconsistent, but members were not specific about why exactly the bulkhead does not conform with the LWRP.

According to village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr., the village board has the right to overrule the Harbor Committee, and on Tuesday night it appeared the board was leaning that way, although trustee Ed Gregory asked for time to review Warren’s material before weighing in.

Village Considers Ban on Bamboo

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Sag Harbor resident Pat Field has tried everything to destroy bamboo that spread from her neighbor’s Madison Street property across her driveway and 15-feet into her property.

“It’s impossible to kill,” she said at a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday night. “I’ve tried.”

Field has proposed that the village consider adopting a law similar to one proposed in Smithtown banning invasive species of bamboo that, when planted and not properly controlled, can spread quickly and destroy neighboring properties. Under Field’s proposal, homeowners who plant bamboo must keep it from spreading within 20-feet of neighboring properties, noting the plants can “destroy brick patios” and even grow through air conditioning units. She proposes that violators would be charged with having to remove the plants from neighbors’ properties if it spreads and should be fined $500 a month if they don’t comply with the law.

“If someone wants it so badly, they must put a steel barrier at least three-feet down to contain the plantings on their property,” states Field in her proposal to the board.

Both Mayor Brian Gilbride and Trustee Robby Stein appeared supportive of the village at least exploring legislation.

“Nothing will happen overnight, but you have brought us something we will look at and send to the other boards,” said Gilbride.

Village Needs County Okay For Binocular Viewer on Wharf

The Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society has petitioned the Village of Sag Harbor to allow a binocular viewer on Long Wharf for residents to view the historic Cedar Island Lighthouse.

The society is working towards the lighthouse’s restoration and is hoping the viewer will bring attention, and support to their cause.

On Tuesday night, Gilbride told Michael Leahy, the Chairman of the Cedar Island Restoration Committee, that he supported the idea, but due to ongoing debates between the county and the village over the ownership of Long Wharf, he was hesitant to allow the viewer to be installed.

However, Gilbride agreed to allow the viewer to be placed on the wharf as long as Leahy could secure a letter from the county supporting the concept.

Resident Wants Trees Removed

A Hempstead Street resident approached both the village Harbor Committee and Trustees this week asking that trees she says were planted on village property over 30 years ago, blocking her water view, be removed.

Rebecca Curtis contends that former village mayor Bill Young had trees planted in the portion of village land next to the Havens Beach drainage ditch that took away a water view from the rear of her house. Curtis said she was promised they would be removed, but 32 years later they remain.

She added that she would like the village to explore restoring the wetlands around the drainage ditch instead of its current plan. The village trustees have proposed to address bacteria in the ditch through a combination of bio-filtration in the creation of a restored wetland in the ditch itself, as well as the use of mechanical filtration units at the beginning of the ditch at Hempstead Street and at its end where it discharges into Sag Harbor Bay.

“I moved here just to have a view of that water and I no longer have that due to the village’s actions,” said Curtis on Tuesday night.

Gilbride said he was reluctant to “chop down” trees on village property. Trustee Tim Culver added that the village’s plans for Havens Beach were developed out of years of study by village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, as well as the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

After the meeting, Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley questioned whether or not the trees Young had planted on village property were the trees now blocking Curtis’ view. He furnished two maps, one from 1997 that showed two perfect lines of trees planted next to the ditch at Havens Beach. Yardley said it is those trees, which were cut down two years ago, that he believes were planted by the village. A cluster of trees blocking Curtis’ view, visible on a 2009 map of the area, Yardley said he believes grew naturally.

In other village news, the board formally adopted a new law regulating restaurants as accessory businesses to motels in the resort-motel district of the village.

Under the law, the restaurants cannot occupy more than 20-percent of the gross floor area of an entire restaurant, can only be open when the motel is open, cannot offer take-out to non-motel guests and cannot contain a separate bar or nightclub.

Lastly, the board approved the Sag Harbor American Music Festival’s request to have outdoor musicians perform on two spots on Main Street and have an outdoor performance at Marine Park to kick off their inaugural festival on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1.

In addition to a Friday night performance at Bay Street theatre, 11 local businesses will host musical events featuring American music styles like blues and jazz, over the course of the weekend.

Paddle Power: Understanding Water Quality By Getting On It

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By Emily J. Weitz

It was a misty morning when a committed group of about forty paddlers gathered at Havens Beach on Saturday in support of the efforts of Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper. The event, the First Annual Paddle for the Bays, was organized to spread the mission of the Baykeeper.

“We’re part of the Waterkeeper Alliance,” explained McAllister as he dragged his kayak towards the water. “Our organization was formed in 1997 to protect and restore our bays. We are focused on clean water, and we rely on our citizen enforcer components.”

I looked around at the small army of citizen enforcers, ranging from strapping young surfers with tattooed arms to women in their 60s slathering sunscreen across their faces. It wasn’t a brigade I would want to mess with.

The Paddle was designed as a casual way to familiarize people with the beautiful waters. We pushed off a little after 9 a.m., cutting through the rippling bay in the direction of Little Northwest Creek. I was on a Stand Up Paddle (SUP) board lent to me by Larz of Main Beach Surf and Sport, who supports McAllister in any way he can. He, too, was on a SUP Board, and he looked back over his shoulder at me.

“You doin’ okay?” he asked. I nodded.

“I love this,” I said, drinking in the serene scene of dozens of water-lovers collectively drifting out to sea.

Getting up onto a SUP board is like claiming something back. There’s a sense of power, maybe because you’re nearly walking on water or maybe because you’ve stepped onto your own self-propelled craft. Whatever it is, once you’re up on a SUP board you feel aligned with nature.

We paddled through the rippling waters as the fog slowly began to lift. As we each navigated our own little Zen vessels, I realized what a brilliant idea it was. Who better to protect these waters than those who fall in love with them? And how better to fall in love than like this, on a lazy morning in May, in a casual regatta of kayaks, canoes, surfboards, and Stand Up Paddle boards, stroking towards the marshy wetlands.

McAllister wanted everyone to just enjoy, but he laced in his wisdom and some harsh realities along the way.

“It was only a few years ago (in 2004),” he explained, “that we advanced a No-Discharge Zone here at Havens.”

That means that prior to that, the hundreds of boats that anchored there in the summers could just dump their waste (including human excrement) right into the waters.

“And there’s still a ditch here that discharges storm water filled with lawn fertilizers and pesticides into this water,” McAllister added. “As a credit to Sag Harbor, they have committed to make changes to the ditch to filter storm water.”

I looked back at the swing sets and slides at Havens, recalling a recent moment when my two-year-old dashed without a care towards the gentle sea. Human excrement? Pesticides? I was convinced: The citizen enforcers were indispensable.

“The thing is,” McAllister said as he guided his kayak through the water, “we should not take these waters for granted relative to water quality. People think water quality is an up-island problem, but it’s not true. There were shellfish closures in Shinnecock Bay three or four weeks ago because of toxic red tide.”

And if that’s still far enough west to push it out of your realm of consideration, consider this: Last year, bacteria in Northwest Creek in Sag Harbor was discovered to consist of 67% human source.

“Our water is polluted by too much nitrogen,” says McAllister, “which comes from cesspools.” The hope comes from the fact that advocacy efforts are starting to pay off. Sag Harbor has committed to cleaning up the water quality at Havens Beach. But that’s exactly why McAllister adds, “If you’re about this beach, you’ve got to show up at the town meetings.”

I looked out at the group, everyone going at their own pace, having their own experience, connecting with nature in their own way. A young guy in a wetsuit lay across his surf board, the smooth strokes of his arms propelling him. A pair in a two-person kayak shrank to a dot in the distance, their power pulling them ahead. An older man in a canoe sat back, just taking it all in. I wondered who of us would show up.

I broke off from the group to make my return voyage alone. Alongside the desolate beach I traveled, dipping the paddle in the cool water in long, slow strokes. The trees jutted out of the sandy cliffs, the sound of birds skipped across the water, and I, in my soundless vessel, felt like a part of something bigger. And that’s what McAllister wanted for us. The hope is that if we love it, and we teach our children to love it, then maybe we’ll show up to save it.

Harbor Committee Wants Waterfront Revenue Earmarked

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This week Sag Harbor Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait formally requested the village board to keep his committee in the loop as trustees continue to work towards possible remediation at Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach. The committee also wondered if some of the monies generated by the village’s harbors and docks should not be earmarked towards projects along the village waterfront.

Over the last two years, village officials and the Peconic BayKeeper have been working towards determining the water quality at Havens, announcing earlier this winter that bacterial levels in the drainage ditch, and occasionally at the beach, next to the beach exceed county health standards. Bacteria attributed to animal and human waste was detected in DNA tests completed by the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

According to Tait, committee member Brian Halweil has been working with the village’s grant writer, who is searching for grants that may be used for a remediation at the beach, although village officials are still determining the right course of action at Havens.

Sag Harbor village planning consultant Rich Warren told the committee the village has reached out to Southampton and East Hampton towns in an attempt to clean the stormwater runoff drains throughout the village, and his firm has been researching inserts that may filter the runoff before it reaches the ditch. Testing of the water at Havens is also ongoing.

Tait said he would like to see a management plan set up for the stormwater runoff drains in Sag Harbor, and one that includes more regular cleaning. That the towns only lend the village the proper vehicles for such a task, he added, is “woefully inadequate.”

“I know now the dockage fees all go into the general fund,” said Peters. “Maybe now it is time to start thinking about taking a percentage.”

Peters said he would like to explore using some of the monies generated by the village’s harbors and docks towards projects like remediation at Havens Beach and addressing stormwater runoff issues in general in Sag Harbor.

“I know we have to get further along on the human contaminant issue [at Havens], but I don’t know if we need any more testing to start addressing stormwater runoff issues in the village,” agreed Tait.

Months Before Pollution Solution at Havens Beach

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Sag Harbor Village officials will spend the next several months working with a cadre of experts — from the Peconic Baykeeper to state and county agencies and the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) — to determine the source of pollutants in the drainage ditch at Havens Beach, the village’s sole bathing beach. Following last week’s revelation that CCE detected human DNA in bacteria taken from the ditch, identifying how much of that bacteria exists and where it is coming from will be at the top of the agenda.

On Tuesday, January 12 the village board convened a special work session to receive a status report on the beach from Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates.

Warren opened by acknowledging that contaminants, particularly from stormwater runoff, in the Havens Beach ditch is a problem the village has been looking at for a number of years, and was highlighted several years ago by Baykeeper Kevin McAllister. In addition to testing by the Suffolk County Department of Health, for the last year-and-a-half McAllister and Chris Gobler, a professor at SUNY Stony Brook-Southampton completed their own round of testing.

According to Gobler’s study, the outflow ditch adjacent to Havens Beach consistently measured levels of enterococci and fecal coliforms well above healthy standards for a bathing beach or shellfishery during wet weather days. During a handful of wet weather days in 2008 and 2009, Gobler also detected bacterial levels exceeding safe standards in the bathing beach water.

The village’s own testing, conducted with the county and CCE, showed that in addition to DNA from dogs and a variety of birds, bacteria stemming from human DNA was also present in the ditch next to Havens Beach. The same bacteria were not found in the bathing water itself. The bacteria could be from someone using the ditch as a bathroom, from a faulty septic system in one of the nearby homes or from a sanitary system literally sitting in groundwater near the site.

According to Warren, stormwater runoff contaminants in the ditch at Havens Beach, collected from the 138-acre watershed around Sag Harbor, is also likely an issue.

Since these revelations, the county health department, headed by Robert “Mac” Waters has begun a sanitary inventory of homes around the drainage ditch and will attempt to identify the source of any human-related bacteria. The county has also sent a sample from the ditch to a state laboratory, which will test for bacteroides, a more conclusive sign of human-related contamination.

“The expectation is, following this meeting tonight, our group will get together and talk strategy about the next round of sampling,” said Warren, adding they are also hunting for a possible second drainage pipe that connects to the dreen.

Waters also suggested the village adopt its own method for closing the beach if more than an inch of rain falls, as a precautionary measure. While the county normally issues that advisory to 65 beaches throughout Suffolk, Waters said Sag Harbor weather varied drastically from western Suffolk County and the village should create its own protocol.

“Human waste is a potential pathogen – disease causing,” said Waters. “It is a real concern.”

Mayor Brian Gilbride asked Waters how harmful the situation truly is.

“It is very hard to say in terms of the results we have,” said Waters, noting the bathing water itself has tested clean with the exception of a handful of days after storms.

Florian Koch, representing Gobler, said as a former pump out boat operator in Sag Harbor he has watched small children play in the ditch at Havens Beach.

“Even though the beach itself, the bay is fine and does not exceed limits, in the ditch the sampling is always elevated,” said Koch.

“I question the proximity of the dog park and I know that is a little bit of a hot button issue,” said Warren.

“We sampled there in December and we had a hard time not stepping in something,” agreed Waters.

Warren suggested the board look at the dog park and other short-term solutions, like cleaning the drains throughout the watershed. In the long term, Warren said the village will work towards completing a new round of samples, attempt to determine the source of any human-source bacteria found in the samples, as well as non-human bacteria, and begin to identify a remediation plan for the area.

McAllister, he added, has agreed to lend his talents to researching different kinds of remediation plans and in helping the village secure funding for the project.

Warren also suggested the village install signage and fencing around the ditch to keep children out this coming summer, when a remedial plan will not likely be in place.

“How do you create the fencing where it goes across the beach to keep the kids out of that water,” asked Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait about the stream that enters the bay from the ditch. He recommended looking into piping the water below the sand.

Snow Removal to Havens Sparks Debate

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While talks are ongoing on what to do about stormwater runoff and other pollutants at Havens Beach, the village Harbor Committee is sure about one thing: Sag Harbor should no longer use the parking lot at the popular bathing beach to dump snow collected throughout the village.

Following a meeting on Monday, January 11, the committee blasted off a letter to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees demanding the village look for other locations to dump snow plowed from village streets.

“We have now heard the preliminary report on [Havens Beach] and we have learned that we have a significantly greater problem then we anticipated and that the Havens Beach area turns out to be a very environmentally sensitive area in the village because of where it is and because such a large flood plain drains into the area,” said Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait.

Tait added the committee is also concerned about a dog park adjacent to the drainage ditch at Havens Beach and that it is largely un-policed, with irresponsible pet owners leaving their dog’s waste behind despite dog waste baggies and a trash can next to the park.

“The times we have talked about the snow removal we have been told that the village meets the [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] regulations that [the snow is dumped] 300-feet from the wetland,” said Tait, adding the department of public works did make an effort after the blizzard in December to spread the snow out and pull it back from the drainage ditch area.

“But it was easily within the 300-feet,” he said, adding that the Harbor Committee, as the village agency charged with upholding Sag Harbor’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), has the ability to require more than the DEC.

“We all know what this is,” chimed in Harbor Committee member Jeffrey Peters. “It’s the first runoff you are taking with the snow. I personally find, in an environmentally sensitive area like this, it is terrible that we are doing that right there.”

Citing four separate charges of the LWRP, the committee voted unanimously to ask the board of trustees to ban the removal of snow to the Havens Beach lot for the remainder of this year and beyond.

On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Gilbride said they would look at other places, but the board as a whole seemed reluctant to ask the Department of Public Works to change the locale, again citing DEC standards.

In other news, the committee loosened its requests that dockage of mega yachts be restricted on Long Wharf, opening up the west side of Long Wharf during holiday weekends after banning dockage there altogether last year.

“There are substantial revenues involved with renting out Long Wharf,” noted Tait, who reminded the committee that while the village has allowed dockage on the east side of Long Wharf, last year it prohibited dockage on the north and west ends in an effort to promote local access to the waterfront. Tait said that while the village has traditionally rented the east side for the whole of the summer to Summer Wind he would also like to see a variety of big ships able to use the space throughout the year.

As a compromise with the village, which Tait said could use additional revenues during an economic downturn, the committee agreed to continue to allow boats to dock on the east side of Long Wharf, but only for a two-week period per vessel. Consulting with Harbor Master Bob Bori, they also agreed to allow the west side to be rented during Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends and voted to keep the north end of Long Wharf closed to dockage throughout the summer.

Peters, who did not agree with the idea of opening up the west side for mega-yachts at all, voted against the recommendation.

On Tuesday night, the Village Board of Trustees agreed with the committee’s recommendations, but decided to allow Summer Wind to dock for the whole summer season.

Bacteria From Human Waste Found at Havens Beach

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The discovery of bacteria from human waste found in the ditch at Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach has prompted a special meeting by the village’s board of trustees. They will meet on Tuesday, January 12, at 5 p.m. to review the findings by officials from Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Working with the Village of Sag Harbor, scientists from Cornell Cooperative Extension, using samples taken by the Suffolk County Department of Health, discovered DNA evidence of fecal coliforms in the drainage ditch adjacent to Sag Harbor’s lone bathing beach. Sag Harbor Village engaged Cornell Cooperative Extension to discover the source of bacteria this fall in an effort to determine where any contaminants originated from before laying out a plan for remediation of the ditch.

During dry weather sampling, taken on October 6, Cornell discovered both human and bird coliforms in the ditch water. During wet weather sampling, taken the next day, Canada goose, herring gull, dog and human coliforms were detected, according to Sag Harbor environmental planning consultant Richard Warren. On the same days, in the bathing water itself, Warren said dry day testing showed black duck coliforms and on the wet weather data showed unknown coliforms, although not human in nature.

The Suffolk County Department of Health tests for enterococcus, not coliforms, explained Warren, due to changes in county health department standards, making it difficult to discern at this time how much of the bacteria stems from a human or animal source or as a result of stormwater runoff.

“It is something we will have to have a discussion about,” he said on Wednesday. “We will have to discuss how we try and determine what the percentage is that is being contributed by the different sources.”

According to Warren, testing completed by the county health department throughout the summer and fall, in addition to testing completed by Chris Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook-Southampton who has been working with the Peconic Baykeeper to study water quality at Havens Beach, does lead him to believe there is bacterial contamination on certain days in the ditch at Havens.

“There is fairly significant attenuation occurring in terms of the enterococcus once it reaches the saltwater,” added Warren. “But that doesn’t mean we want it to reach the saltwater.”

Warren said it is his recommendation that additional samples be run by both the county and Cornell Cooperative Extension, to ensure the results can be relied upon as the village moved towards creating a clean-up plan for the ditch.

The drainage ditch collects water from 130 acres around Sag Harbor. Peconic Baykeeper Kevin MacAllister forced a spotlight on the possibility of stormwater runoff contaminating the ditch over two years ago, setting off a controversy about the water quality at Sag Harbor’s only bathing beach. Since then, village officials, working with the Baykeeper and with the county department of health, have sought to discover the source of any spikes in bacterial counts in the drainage ditch before developing a plan to remedy the problem.

The discovery of the possibility of a human source of bacteria in the ditch led Warren to have the village’s building department inventory the age of homes in the watershed. That inventory will be used by the county health department in a sanitary survey, meant to discern whether the bacteria is a result of groundwater discharge or an improperly installed or maintained private sewage system.

“My guess is we won’t have the answers before the end of the summer,” he said.

On Tuesday, Warren will present a progress report as well as the next steps the village will have to undertake. Representatives from the Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Suffolk County Department of Health will also be in attendance and MacAllister and Gobler are expected to make a presentation on their year-and-a-half study on water quality at the beach.

On Monday, MacAllister said he was pleased to see the village taking action on the issue, rather than sweeping it under the rug.

“From day one, I have felt this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” he said. “As long as the village is committed to following through on this investigation to find out all of the details I am okay with it, as long as there is a commitment to do something about this in the future.”

MacAllister said he plans to be a part of the process until it reaches a conclusion, which he hopes will include the creation of a reconfigured bio-filtration system leading into the drainage ditch.

“To the extent I can, I will also help identify funding sources and try and contribute in helping the village package a grant proposal that will have a good chance of being approved,” he said.