Tag Archive | "Peconic BayKeeper"

Baykeeper: Leaky Sewage Regs Killing East End Waters

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At a press conference on Tuesday, September 18, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin MacAllister presented his 2012 Baywatch report. That report highlights the importance of the Clean Water Act, the impact septic systems are having on the Peconic Estuary and why government needs to step up to the plate to battle the increasingly detrimental affects of nitrogen loading in the bays.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was passed by Congress 40 years ago this October in reaction to the burning of the Cuyahoga River and other galvanizing affects, said MacAllister in a press release issued in advance of his talk. The CWA set goals of the country striving for “zero discharge of pollutants” by 1995 and fishable and swimming waters by 1983.

When CWA was enacted in 1972, two-thirds of America’s waterways were polluted, said MacAllister.

Forty years later, said MacAllister, a third of the nation’s water bodies are still contaminated, including an overwhelming majority of waters in Suffolk and Nassau County.

“If you’re a Suffolk County resident and you live near a body of water, chances are it is polluted,” said MacAllister.

In Suffolk County alone, over 100 bodies of water have been classified as impaired by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Little Fresh Pond and Big Fresh Pond in Southampton and Mill Pond and Seven Ponds in Water Mill are among the new bodies of water the DEC has classified as impaired, said MacAllister.

According to the Baykeeper, a major source of pollution on Long Island comes from onsite wastewater disposal systems. He championed this belief in a 2010 Baywatch report, which caught the attention of local government officials, including Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, who acknowledged, “our current wastewater regulations do not sufficiently protect drinking and surface waters and are in need of reform.”

“We must take the necessary nitrogen reduction actions at all levels of government to ensure the long-term health of our waterways,” said Romaine in 2010.

Continuing this discussion, the Peconic Baykeeper said its 2012 Baywatch report intends to bring greater public awareness to the topic of nitrogen pollution from wastewater and draw attention to the extent to which local waters have been degraded. Baywater 2012 also calls on elected officials to take meaningful actions to restore and protect local waters.

“It is time to turn the tide and bring water to the forefront of our consciousness and public conversations,” said MacAllister.

In that effort, the Peconic Baykeeper, through its counsel, Super Law Group, LLC has petitioned the DEC to ratchet down nitrogen effluent through more stringent discharge standards.

“DEC has failed to comply to the legal mandates of the Clean Water Act and state law, both of which require strict permit limits on the discharge of nitrogen, in order to protect water quality,” said Baykeeper’s attorney, Reed Super.

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister

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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.

Inspired by the Bays

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by Lucy de Souza

Artist Carol Boye is no stranger to East End. “I’ve grown up on the water out here, I’ve been sailing here my whole life,” she said. In her spare time, Boye enjoys being out on the water not only sailing but crabbing, clamming and even helping an 85 year-old friend set nets for fishing. However, in the past few years she has noticed a growing problem that has threatened the East End: the quality of local waters and sea-life have decreased. Like many concerned seafaring folk before her, Boye decided to take action. But perhaps in a more unconventional way: she decided to put together a cookbook.

Of all the different ways to support a cause, why a cookbook? “It just popped into my head and it just seemed like a really good idea to kind of tie my passions together.” Boye explained.

Following in this aquatic theme, the cookbook is entitled, “Go Fish” and is comprised of fish recipes by local residents, artists and chefs as well as images of local artwork depicting the East End.

The cookbook features 136 recipes, from the familiar baked clams to the more foreign “Mille Feuillie de Saumon Mordue d’Huites Grattinees”. Celebrity chef George Hirsch—who contributed a recipe for “Peconic Scallops and Pasta with Garlic Sauce”—described “Go Fish” as being special because it includes a wide assortment of meals. “It’s very varied and I think it’s really wonderful that [Boye] chose a whole variety of the community to come together…it’s just wonderful to have this collection of our community because everyone brings something to the table, so to speak.”

According to Chef Randy Reiss, of 230 Elm Street Catering, what makes “Go Fish” different than other fish cookbooks is that the fish in it can be caught and cooked in the area. He describes the flavors in “Go Fish” as one of a kind. “[The fish] are native to this area and you’re only going to get that unique flavor here.” he said, noting that there are some species of fish that exist here on the East End that don’t exist anywhere else in the world.

The recipes in the cookbook submitted by Reiss are “Grilled Oyster Lemon Lime Chive Buerr Blance with Caviar” and “Clams Casino,” both of which he said are big hits at parties he caters.

Reiss also applauded the cookbook for its friendliness towards the average cook who “wants to develop a palette for East End food” and “wants an adventure” when experimenting with new cuisine. Hirsch agrees. He describes the taste of East End fish as “pristine” and simple. It’s food you can take straight from the sea, to the flame, to the plate. “It’s already been well flavored just by living in our waters, no need to muck it up,” he said.

By supporting the “Go Fish” cookbook, readers also support the preservation of the East End’s unique qualities. “[“Go Fish”] will bring greater awareness to the connection between the people and the resource and hopefully they will no longer take for granted the bounty of the bay,” Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister said.

The book benefits two important programs: The Peconic Baykeeper, who plays guardian to local waters by enforcing protective policies; and the reseeding program, responsible for restocking the bays with shellfish.

“There’s something special about sitting at a seafood restaurant on the water and eating seafood caught out of that bay,” Boye added, “If you take that away from here, we lose a lot.”

“You gotta have a bowl of mussels or a lobster or a couple of dozen of clams over the course of the summer or else its not summer. It’s apart of what the summer time ritual is,” said Don Sullivan owner of Southampton Publick house and close friend of Boye.

Boye continued to say that passionate effort was put into the book by all of those involved. As Chef Reiss said, “It really comes from the heart.”

“Go Fish” is available for purchase at several East End locations. For the full list, visit www.gofishbenefit.com. The book sells for $24.95.

Red Tide Rears Its Head Again, Early

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web Red Tide_1

Red tide, an algae bloom toxic to shellfish and fin fish, is already rampant in the waters off the South Fork of Long Island, having reappeared for the sixth year in a row and over a month earlier than years past, according to Stony Brook Southampton professor Dr. Chris Gobler and Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

Already visible in the Shinnecock and Peconic bays, including Noyac Bay off Sag Harbor, according to Dr. Gobler the red tide first appeared around July 20, whereas previously the algae has bloomed in late August and early September.

“The organism has been present for some time, but we do not know why it has become so prominent in recent years,” said Dr. Gobler. “We believe the warmer-than-usual summer has been responsible for its early arrival.”

A harmful algal bloom, red tide is visible, usually presenting itself in rust-colored bands on surface water. While harmless to humans, Dr. Gobler noted the species is highly toxic to fish, shellfish, larvae, zooplankton and other algae.

“These properties prevent it from being consumed by predators and prevent it from needing to compete with other algae for resources such as nutrients,” explained Dr. Gobler. “Higher nitrogen levels lead to more intense blooms. We also know the blooms seem to be isolated to the Peconics and Northeastern Shinnecock Bay.”

The tide will remain until the water cools, reducing the number of available nutrients.

According to Dr. Gobler, quantifying the impacts of red tide is difficult, although he noted the smallest organisms, larvae, are the most vulnerable albeit the most difficult to track.

“Large fish in pound nets and at Stony Brook’s marine station have died during blooms,” said Dr. Gobler. “Fishermen have reported a decline in landings during and following the blooms. The Southampton Town Trustees reported a large scallop die-off in Noyac Bay following last year’s bloom. None of these things are good news for the ecosystem.”

McAllister agreed that areas where aquaculture is occurring are the most vulnerable, particularly if their growth is in cages, but that pound nets are equally vulnerable as when fish trapped in the nest can be exposed to the toxic algae for prolonged periods of time.

“I think the wild stock is also vulnerable if there is a persistent bloom,” he added.

Dr. Gobler, whose lab at Stony Brook Southampton is focused on water quality research and plankton ecology, said the occurrence of red tide is a sign of poor water quality, however while his lab has learned much about the species they are still studying why the blooms start and why they reoccur on such a consistent basis, as opposed to brown tide, which is more sporadic.

McAllister said he has seen literature referencing the occurrence of red tides dating back centuries, but that he believes an increase in nutrients like nitrogen in the water likely is due to human influence, specifically the result of aging wastewater treatment systems leeching into the groundwater and concurrently into streams and bays, as well as the use of some fertilizers in landscaping and lawn maintenance.

“It’s been around for a long time, but with that being said, we are seeing these harmful algae blooms more frequently and certainly along developed coastal communities,” said McAllister. “I don’t have the smoking gun, but I do believe there is a correlation between development and the strain on coastal marine life.”

Bacteria From Human Waste Found at Havens Beach

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web Havens Beach Drain

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.

Havens Beach Study to Continue Through Summer

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Havens Study Will Continue
By Marissa Maier

Members of the Stony Brook University research team, who have been testing for harmful levels of bacteria at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor for almost a year, say their work will continue through the summer. Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and the director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program, has spearheaded the team with help from graduate and doctorate students, like Florian Koch.
Koch was on hand at a recent Coastal and Estuarine Research Program environmental symposium with a poster showing the testing data as of March 2009. The team, in conjunction with Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, has been studying the site since April 2008 and say the data they have collected is alarming.
“I think the data speaks for itself … The water quality in this area is being negatively affected, but this isn’t a new issue,” said McAllister. “Hopefully, this report will place a spotlight on Havens and be a call to action for the village and the harbor committee.”
According to data presented by Koch at the symposium, levels of harmful bacteria have exceeded healthy thresholds for bathing and shell fishing throughout the year. From April 2008 to early April 2009, testing from the receding water stations located in the bay showed bacteria levels were above adequate standards for shell fishing 31 percent of the time during testing and 44 percent of the time for bathing thresholds. These numbers pertain to results collected from three testing stations set-up in the water.
At three “source” stations — which consist of a ditch, a culvert leading to the beach and a steady stream of water flowing from the beach into the bay — levels were even higher. When averaging the whole year, the source station surpassed healthy standards 70 percent of the time for shell fishing and 60 percent of the time for bathing.
Because the source stations indicated more frequent high bacterium levels than the receding water stations, Gobler said his team studied the source stations to ascertain where the bacterium was coming from. That research is ongoing.
Koch and his fellow researchers tested the beach on a monthly to bi-monthly basis, but did responsive testing after heavy rainfalls. The ditch, or the first “source” station, collects storm water run-off for a 275-acre area, said McAllister, through a complicated network of piping. According to McAllister, the water collected at the ditch, seeking the lowest elevation, then flows into Havens Beach by way of the culvert. Gobler added that it is possible the ditch is also subject to ground water seepage.
As the Stony Brook team has been conducting their research, Suffolk County has been testing the waters of Havens Beach.
“By law, the county tests Havens and all other beaches on a weekly basis,” said Sag Harbor Village Mayor, Greg Ferraris. “Suffolk County has never issued a directive to close the beach.”
McAllister said the discrepancy between the county’s and Stony Brook’s results could be attributed to the Stony Brook team’s responsive testing after heavy rainfall. He noted that contaminates are more likely to flow into the ditch when it rains, but in drier weather are likely to stay put.
Village planner Richard Warren, who also operates an environmental consulting firm, said the discrepancy could also be attributed to different testing methodologies. He added that he would like to sit down and review side by side the county’s results and the Stony Brook results, with the help of Chris Gobler.
“With Kevin [McAllister] and Chris [Gobler], I hope we can set aside a testing protocol and start having a dialogue,” said Warren.
Village officials said they weren’t contacted before the yearly results were presented at the symposium and felt this went against a communications protocol established by both parties.
“We expected once the testing was complete to meet and discuss the findings,” Ferraris noted. “[We hope] to review the data and come up with a plan of action.”
Although the Stony Brook team planned to test for only a year, Koch said they would continue through the summer with no fixed end point in mind. Gobler added that the team believes it is important to continue monitoring the site and he also wishes to set up testing sites to the east and west of the beach.
McAllister noted that beyond testing, actual measures would need to be implemented in the future.
“Havens Beach and this ditch is a problem,” he said. “But developing this data will hopefully lead to a remediation project. It is going to cost money to deal with this and I recognize the challenges the village is facing. Are they going to be able to finance a project that is going to eliminate this pollution problem?”

CONPOSH Forum Focuses On Water

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With a topic as wide-ranging as “water,” the focus of a Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor meeting turned to water quality for many in the crowd of over 30 who gathered at the First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church on Sunday afternoon.

Panelists invited to the event were as varied as the topics discussed. Paddy South, the director of public relations for the Suffolk County Water Authority, Southampton Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer, East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny and Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister all attended, for the most part discussing what they were each working on in terms of what is arguably the East End’s most valuable resource — its water.

CONPOSH member Valerie Justin opened the forum by talking about the “critical need” to face the issue of stormwater runoff on the East End, as well as water quality in general, and oversight of valuable bodies of water, like those found on the Long Pond Greenbelt.

And with the exception of South, who focused on basic facts about the water authority, it was stormwater runoff and protecting natural resources that dominated the panelists’ presentations.

Larry Penny focused less on what the town was accomplishing, than what he felt residents should be wary of when it comes to water.

As natural resources director since 1984, Penny oversees some 410 nature preserves and helped author both the town’s comprehensive plan as well as a water resources plan.

“They don’t test enough and they don’t have enough study,” said Penny of the water quality on the East End, noting contaminants in water can cause disease. Penny did add the SCWA has been “leading the charge” in terms of conserving water and keeping it clean. However, he added, medical contaminants are a new challenge environmentalists must face. The drugs that people ingest can still be active, and may not be filtered out through sewage systems, said Penny. They can have wide ranging effects over time on the ecology and health in a community, he said.

Pesticides and nitrates, due to farming on the North Fork, he said, are also prevalent in the Peconic Estuary, and vector control and pesticide use also need to be monitored.

“We are still fighting things that have been put into the ground 30 years ago,” noted Penny, adding that the absence of bay scallops and the increase in the disappearance of eelgrass beds is directly connected to water quality.

“Why is the winter flounder population flat, zero,” asked Penny. “Because they like to breed in eel grass.”

Havemeyer, as a member of one of the oldest boards in the United States — the Southampton Town Trustees, which was founded in 1686 — is charged with protecting much of the water in Southampton.

One of the biggest issues the trustees contend with, he said, are dealing with development and protecting the wetlands in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The same principles used to protect saltwater can be applied to freshwater, said Havemeyer, including combating stormwater runoff, which Havemeyer and MacAllister agreed was one of the biggest threats to water quality on the East End.

Havemeyer advocated creating wetland buffers in any stormwater runoff area of concern as a natural filter.

MacAllister, as the Peconic Baykeeper, has been advocating for such a natural wetlands filter at Havens Beach for over a year now. On Sunday, he noted, as a Baykeeper initiated a testing cycle on the popular bathing beach was near completion, he expects the village will begin to address Havens Beach and other stormwater runoff sites as it moves forward with a comprehensive village stormwater runoff management plan.

 “Ninety percent of Long Island’s water bodies are considered impaired, meaning they do not support these kinds of uses,” said MacAllister of bathing, shellfishing and propagation of marine life as benchmarks for water quality. Road runoff, collecting a myriad of bacteria from pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria from pet and wild animal waste is primarily to blame, said MacAllister.

However, said MacAllister, it is not just the municipalities that are responsible for taking this task on. He noted the Baykeeper has a “bayscaping” program, focused on teaching East End residents how to care for their properties in an environmentally sensitive manner.

“We have to start employing this on an individual level, but also as a community,” said MacAllister.



Peconic BayKeeper Says Havens Beach Needs Remediation

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While a year long testing protocol of Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach will not be completed until April of 2009, according to Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister preliminary results show “elevated levels of bacteria, particularly after stormwater events” at the popular bathing beach — results he said should be looked at as reason enough to explore remediation of the site once more.

MacAllister presented his thoughts on the controversial subject at a Friday, November 7 Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, where he discussed the role of the BayKeeper and the serious threat stormwater in general poses to the ecosystem on the East End.

The Peconic BayKeeper, in cooperation with the Village of Sag Harbor, has been engaged in a yearlong testing protocol of Havens Beach after a controversial pamphlet released by the BayKeeper in 2007 suggested water at the bathing beach could be contaminated by a stormwater runoff drain and dreen that empties into the water.

Village officials and MacAllister debated the merits of the information laid out in the pamphlet, but in 2008 — through the village harbor committee — came to agreement on a testing protocol at the beach. That testing is being conducted by Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program Chris Gobler.

On Friday, MacAllister said while he did not have results in front of him, test results showed that after storm events elevated levels of bacteria were found at the beach, including levels that exceeded shellfish standards and bathing beach standards.

“We have to focus on some form of remediation to address the quality of the water and this situation,” MacAllister told the CAC. “We have committed to continued monitoring through April and will provide a full body of findings on the conditions of water quality at the beach.”

The BayKeeper said he would like to see some form of the Cashin plan – meandering the current dreen through planted wetlands and marsh areas creating a natural bio-filtration system – implemented to deal with any stormwater runoff contamination. According to MacAllister, in addition to ensuring Havens Beach was free of any elevated bacteria levels, even after a storm, the plan would also provide vast educational opportunities for children on the East End.

MacAllister said he had already spoken to village officials, who said they were interested in exploring a more comprehensive approach to stormwater discharge in the village, noting the Havens Beach drain is just one of many stormwater sites.

“I think to the credit of the village it sounds as if they want to start addressing stormwater runoff,” said MacAllister. “I feel like even if it is one pipe at a time, we need to make strides. Havens Beach is a priority because it is a public bathing beach and in terms of remediation, you have a blank canvas. You don’t have to rip up roads to accomplish this project.”

Other issues the BayKeeper is trying to tackle include convincing Suffolk County and the State of New York to change their regulations regarding septic systems. MacAllister noted that with increased development and excessive growth comes more septic systems that enrich the ground with nitrates that eventually enter the water, causing a host of problems including algae blooms.

“Looking at a dark shade of green in the summer is not a healthy color,” said MacAllister.

MacAllister said he would like to see the county look into requiring better technology for these systems and at minimum ask for mandatory inspections and replacement of antiquated systems.

The BayKeeper is also working with the Group for the East End on a “Bayscaping Program” designed to encourage people to landscape their properties with the environment in mind, reducing the use of chemicals and relying on native plants.

“We have to shift the paradigm from what I have seen in the last 20 years with people striving towards these trophy lawns,” said MacAllister. “Think about the entire Sag Harbor community, for instance, and what a benefit it would have on the local waters here if people began thinking in that direction.”



Health Testing At Havens Beach Is Incomplete

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For a week now, following an article and editorial in last week’s The East Hampton Star,  officials from the Village of Sag Harbor have been getting phone calls from residents wondering why the village would not inform its residents that swimming at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor could put them in danger.

While official testing data out of Stony Brook Southampton has yet to be completed, and county testing has continued on a monthly basis, the general consensus at a special Sag Harbor Board of Trustees meeting this week was swimmers need not “beware” of swimming at Havens Beach. However, storm water run off and other sources of bacteria are being studied, and especially after a large rain event can lead to high levels of bacteria, specifically at levels that prohibit the beach from being used to harvest shellfish, which was banned at the beach.

On Wednesday, August 20 the board of trustees convened a special forum with the Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister, Stony Brook-Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program Chris Gobler, members of the Harbor Committee, village planner Rich Warren and East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny. The forum, said Mayor Greg Ferraris, was conceived in an effort to provide the public updated information on a yearlong testing protocol that started in April, and clear up some questions regarding county beach advisories and closures.

A drainage creek runs north to south through marshland and onto the beach allowing stormwater runoff, collected from drains around the area, to dissipate into the Sag Harbor Bay. About six years ago, a plan was studied to create a bio-filtration system to snake through the dreen in order to ensure bacteria would be naturally filtered. Ferraris noted that the estimated $300,000 project went as far as to go to bid, but federal funding had dried up, and at the same time the village received county testing figures back that showed a pollution problem did not exist at the beach.

Last year, in part because of a brochure issued by the Peconic Baykeeper, Ferraris said the village began looking at the possibility of contaminants in the dreen, specifically hoping to discern the cause, whether it be storm water runoff, animal waste, effluent from boats in the bay or even a result of the village’s own wastewater treatment facility.

“Really, what we wanted to do was try and put a testing system in place to try and pinpoint the contaminants,” said Ferraris. In April, with the help of the BayKeeper, the village began to do just that after a Harbor Committee meeting focused on the subject and a testing protocol. The BayKeeper, working with Gobler and Stony Brook-Southampton’s Coastal and Estuarine Research Program began their own testing protocol, using points in the dreen, as well as test areas 100 yards from shore. The sampling was scheduled for an eight-month period, between April and November of this year, although village officials did ask a full year’s testing be performed to ensure a complete study.

On Wednesday, Ferraris stressed the village board is responsible first and foremost for the safety of its residents and the bathers at Havens Beach, and should they be made aware the beach is unsafe they would immediately take action.

Ferraris presented the panel with correspondence from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Bureau of Marine Services Supervisor Robert Waters, who provided information on what a beach advisory is and what a beach closure is. Suffolk County Department of Health Services has never, wrote Rivers, closed Havens Beach due to “water quality criteria excedances,” or because a test came back with a unsafe level of fecal coliform for swimmers. According to Rivers, since 2003, “10 rainfall-related advisories recommending against bathing at Havens Beach, have been issued.”

“These were not closures for cause,” he continues. “Just precautionary recommendations to avoid bathing in water potentially impacted by storm water.”

According to the department’s website, these advisories can be triggered by even the anticipation of heavy rainfall.

“Havens Beach water quality is generally very good, and often excellent,” writes Waters. “There are occasional water quality perturbations however, likely due to storm water runoff through the pipe.” He goes on to say it is possible other sources, like waterfowl, boats and other sources may have played a role.

According to Gobler, the New York State Department of Health has switched its testing to focus on enterococcus as what it uses in monitoring bathing beaches. Gobler is looking at the same bacteria, but said the tests were not ready as his lab is currently in the process of upgrading to a bio-safety level two in order to complete the protocol, which should be done shortly. Preliminary results, he said, did show occasions where levels were exceeded, after wet weather events.

Gobler stressed enterococcus, not coliforms, is what determines safety at a bathing beach, although coliform levels are used for the opening and closing of shellfish beds.

“The very good thing in all of this is this is an issue that is being regulated by the state department of health,” noted Gobler. “So, thankfully, in the end, we will have a very black and white response on bathing and shellfish.”

However, said Gobler, the grey area will be the dreen on the beach itself and urged the village to think of how to deal with that from a safety standpoint in the future.

Village officials agreed signage, at the least, should be posted around the dreen and Ferraris later said the village would increase signage so residents know what a Suffolk County advisory is. 

Top photo: The dreen at Havens Beach, which has been the focus of storm water run off concerns in the Village of Sag Harbor. (michael heller photo) Middle photo: Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister, East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny and Stony Brook-Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program Chris Gobler at a meeting organized by village officials about Havens Beach on Wednesday, August 20.