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Eye the Environment

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By David McCabe

The Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee turned its attention to the environment at the group’s meeting on Sunday afternoon, discussing septic systems, recycling centers and illegal off-road vehicles.

John Linder, the outgoing chair of the CAC, asked the committee to consider ways in which members could help the village preserve the sustainability of its bodies of water, especially in light of a report saying parts of Shinecock Bay have become toxic. Quickly, the conversation turned to the placement of septic systems in houses close to the water.

The problem, committee members seemed to agree, was that these systems are too often old and in disrepair. They differed, however, on their preferred solutions.

CAC member Stephen Schumann suggested Southampton Town could consider raising money to completely retrofit its sewage system. Other members of the committee said the cost of such a measure would be prohibitive, and that it would do nothing to solve the problem in the short term.

Linder raised the idea that the Town of Southampton could offer tax breaks to residents who have their septic system checked, allowing them to get the faulty systems repaired. Incoming CAC chair Judah Mahay said the group is concerned that the town, which is looking into ways to clean up local bodies of water, is not thinking in terms of specific programs that could be funded.

“You can’t just throw money at things,” Mahay said.

The committee also addressed the issue of illegal use of all-terrain vehicles in unauthorized areas in the town.

“It’s not that we necessarily want to curb the use of ATVs in general, it’s just when they are used in a place that isn’t really sanctioned,” Mahay said. “The laws are on the books with concern to ATVs, it’s just about making sure those laws are enforced and people are knowledgeable about them and the reasons they were implemented in the first place,” Mahay said.

The CAC also used the meeting to discuss how it could make it easier for Sag Harbor residents to recycle their batteries and electronic devices. Both require special recycling facilities. The CAC decided to wait until its next meeting, because a Sag Harbor resident had raised the concerns about the recycling center and the fact it was unclear where certain objects, like electronic devices, could be disposed of.

“A definite concern that we want to make sure is addressed is that the different recycling centers are working in tandem with one another,” Mahay said, adding he hopes the facilities could find a way to make it clear where residents of Sag Harbor must go to dispose of specific items.

CAC members also spent part of the meeting brainstorming ways to expand their membership, after an Express editorial commented on the group’s diminishing numbers and what the paper viewed as its waning power within the community. Some group members argued that community members think all the issues the CAC could deal with were already resolved, and so they have no interest in the committee.

In the coming months, the CAC will be reaching out to members of the local activist community. Instead of casting a wide net, CAC members will reach out personally to Sag Harbor residents they think may be interested. However, they stressed anyone with an interest in area issues is encouraged to join the committee.

“Anybody who’s a resident of the greater Sag Harbor area that’s interested in how the community develops would be a welcome addition to the committee,” said Mahay.