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Wednesday
Aug142019

Environmental Officers Investigate Illegal Fishing In Block Island Sound

Multiagency Fisheries Enforcement - Suffolk County
From July 29 through Aug. 2, Environmental Conservation Officers (ECO) Brian Farrish, Jeremy Eastwood, Jordan Doroski, Sean Rockefeller, Christopher Macropoulos, and Robert McCabe joined officers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Coast Guard, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for an enforcement operation in Block Island Sound. Rhode Island organized the detail due to increasing complaints from fishermen that striped bass were being taken illegally and that commercial fishermen were coming from other states and fishing in Rhode Island waters without the appropriate license. More than a dozen fishermen from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts were ticketed for taking striped bass, dumping of evidence, failing to possess proper licenses, failing to tag commercial striped bass, and operating an illegal charter. Officers will continue to monitor the activity to ensure compliance.

Sunday
Aug042019

Old Cesspools And Septic Systems Threaten Suffolk's Environment And Economy

The Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan - A Roadmap to Reclaim Our Water.

 

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has released the County’s long-awaited Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan [SWP], a rigorous scientific blueprint for transitioning away from reliance on cesspools and septic systems that have been identified by scientists as the primary source of nitrogen pollution that has fouled local bays.

“Scientists have warned that continued reliance on primitive wastewater disposal systems is a mounting threat to both our environment and our economy,” said Commissioner Tomarken. “Now, for the first time, there is a long term plan to diminish nitrogen pollution and put Suffolk County on a path to cleaner, healthier water resources. The Department appreciates the support and assistance it received from scientists, academic institutions and government agencies on all levels in completing this historic effort.”

Development of the new wastewater plan was a primary recommendation of two major studies, the Smarter Cities Challenge report prepared by a team of experts from IBM in 2014, and the Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan completed in 2015. Preparation of the Plan began in September, 2016, and included staff from regulatory agencies, scientists, academic institutions, and national subject matter experts. It is strongly supported by a broad and diverse group of stakeholders, including scientists and academics, business leaders, environmentalists, labor organizations and the building trades. Funding for the Plan was provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation under the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan. Funding was also provided by the New York State Department of State under the South Shore Estuary Program.

The Plan is the first science-based study ever to delineate more than 190 individual watershed areas in Suffolk County and establish goals for reducing nitrogen inputs into each area. Using scientific data, the Plan establishes Priority Areas where replacement of cesspools and septic systems will have the most immediate benefit.  If the full recommendations are enacted, the SWP projects that the trend of worsening water quality will be arrested and reversed within 10 years. 

The Plan includes a series of recommendations for consideration by policy makers to reduce reliance on cesspools and septic systems over time by replacing them with new state-of-the-art nitrogen reducing septic systems, or, in some cases, by connecting homes to sewer systems. A key consideration is the need to identify a stable and recurring funding source to make the new systems or sewer connections affordable for homeowners. The Plan cites the Bay Restoration Fee implemented by the State of Maryland to fund upgrades, and a fee on water consumption implemented in Spokane, Washington, as examples of potential funding sources to be considered by policy makers.

Over the past several decades, Suffolk County’s groundwater and surface water quality have been plagued by elevating levels of nitrogen loading into the environment. While all sources of water pollution are concerning, nitrogen from cesspools and septic systems has been the most widespread and least well addressed of the region’s growing list of pollutants.  Excess nitrogen has caused harmful algal blooms, caused fish kills, and contributed to the collapse of Suffolk County’s hard clam populations, which once supported a multi-million dollar industry that accounted for over 6,000 jobs.

Approximately 74 percent of Suffolk County remains unsewered, so individual residences and businesses rely on antiquated onsite wastewater disposal systems.  Studies show that about 70 percent of the nitrogen input to local bays comes from approximately 360,000 cesspools and septic systems.  After 1973, newly installed systems were required to include both septic tanks and leaching pools.  The Plan notes, however, that more than 253,000 of the systems were built before 1973, and are simply cesspools, which are essentially injection wells that direct contaminants to groundwater.  The groundwater in Suffolk County is part of a sole source aquifer that provides the region’s drinking water, but is also the primary source of nitrogen contamination to streams and bays.

The plan sets an ambitious goal of investing $2.7 billion over 50 years to eliminate 253,000 cesspools and septic systems by replacing them with new individual nitrogen reducing systems, or by connecting properties to sewers. This funding would implement phases 1 through 3 of the plan to address top priority areas.  The cesspool elimination efforts would be broken into four phases and increased over time as the capacity of the burgeoning industry increases and additional funding resources become available.

While the Plan identifies some areas that can be connected to sewers, most of the nitrogen reduction would be accomplished through replacement of cesspools with individual advanced nitrogen-reducing onsite systems that have been demonstrated to remove over 70 percent of nitrogen from wastewater.  Both Suffolk County and New York State are currently offering grants that cover most of the cost for homeowners who decide to replace their cesspool or septic system with one of the new systems voluntarily.   

Between 2019 and 2023, for Phase 1, which officials call the “Ramp up” phase, an estimated 10,000 cesspools and septic systems would be eliminated through replacement of 5,000 cesspools with new IA technology, and connection of 5,000 homes along river corridors on the South Shore to sewers as part of the Post-Sandy Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative. Several hundred additional parcels in downtown business districts would be connected to sewers. All the work in Phase 1 would be funded through existing grant sources, including more than $440 million in federal and state funding that the County has been awarded by New York State plus an anticipated $95 million in grants to upgrade antiquated septic systems for I/A technology.  The Plan also recommends that policy makers amend the County Sanitary Code to require the use of new IA technology in new construction in 2020.

For the second phase, beginning in 2024, the Plan recommends the elimination of 177,000 cesspools and septic systems in near shore and high priority areas over a 30-year period at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion. The Plan recommends that policy makers implement a requirement that cesspools and septic systems be replaced with the new technology when properties change hands, or when existing cesspools and septic systems fail and must be replaced. The SWP estimates that such requirements could increase the number of cesspools eliminated from 1,000 to over 5,000 per year.

“One critically important aspect of the plan is the economic opportunity and new jobs that will continue to be  created, both in the rapidly developing industry of trained and certified technicians required to install and maintain the new  nitrogen reducing systems, and in connecting thousands of additional parcels to sewers,” said Deputy County Executive Peter A. Scully. “Over the past several years, the County has worked cooperatively with the liquid waste industry to establish licensing requirements and to provide the training needed to install the new systems. Right now, the industry can support the installation of about 1,000 systems per year, but the capacity of the industry will continue to grow as more local small businesses are created to meet market demands.”

The third phase of the program calls for upgrades in all other priority areas in a 15 year period between years 2054 and 2068, at a cost of $730 million. Upgrades in the remaining areas of the County would be completed in the fourth phase of the program at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, bringing the overall cost of the program for phases 1 through 4 to $4 billion.

In addition to recommendations for wastewater management, the Plan provides the foundation for advancing strategies to reduce nitrogen from non-wastewater sources such as fertilizer, and includes recommendations for addressing other compounds, such as contaminants of emerging concern, phosphorous, and pathogens.

The Plan is the subject of detailed environmental review by the County’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), including the development of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement. CEQ’s determination that the DGEIS is complete, expected in mid-August, will trigger the start of a 30-day comment period and the scheduling of two public hearings on the Plan. Interested citizens can access information regarding the Plan online at The Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan - A Roadmap to Reclaim Our Water.

 

 

Friday
Aug022019

DEC And DOH Launch "Know Your NY Water" Website

 

New Resource provides Single Platform for Information about Quality of Drinking Water and Health of Lakes, Rivers, and Streams

The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) today launched a new website, Know Your NY Water, created as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s statewide Water Quality Rapid Response Team efforts, established in 2016. The website, created by DEC and DOH in partnership with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), will provide New Yorkers with information about the state’s public drinking water and the health of New York’s abundant lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as waters used for recreation and habitat protection.

“Protecting New York’s waters is paramount to DEC,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Our collaborative effort to develop Know Your NY Water is an example of Governor Cuomo’s leadership to ensure all New Yorkers have access to information about the quality of our state’s precious water resources. DEC worked closely with our partners at the Department of Health and the Office of Information Technology Services to develop this new, accessible interface and help New Yorkers learn more about our water and our efforts to safeguard it.”

“Assuring the delivery of clean drinking water is critical to the public health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “This website provides a more holistic picture of how water is protected even before it reaches the tap.”

“ITS is pleased to partner with DEC and DOH to provide New Yorkers access to vital information about their drinking water. Integrating geographically-based mapping information into the Know Your NY Water website provides a new and interactive way for site visitors to easily access location-based water information and maps. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, ITS will continue to work with our clients to develop innovation that matters for all New Yorkers,” said New York State Chief Information Officer Robert Samson.

Know Your NY Water is a map-based website that users can search by location to learn more about the water they use every day. The website allows users to find the nearest large public drinking water system and view its Annual Drinking Water Quality Report and contact information. New Yorkers on public water supplies will continue to receive annual water quality reports directly from their water suppliers, in addition to the information available on this website.

In addition, Know Your NY Water features a map of New York’s waterbodies and links to fact sheets about lakes and streams that provide information about water quality, causes and sources of water quality impairments, and the status of restoration efforts. Visit the Know Your NY Water website. For more information about public drinking water, contact the local health department. For information about New York State lakes, rivers, and streams contact DEC at 4pwlinfo@dec.ny.gov.

Friday
Aug022019

NYS Wildlife Management Areas Will Be Open To Public For 16 Days

 

State Lifts Restricted Access to WMAs to Give Public a Peek

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that the agency is opening several otherwise restricted Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to the public in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties from Saturday, Aug. 10, through Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019.

Portions of these WMAs are marked as “refuge” or “wetlands restricted areas” to allow waterfowl and other listed species to breed and raise young without interference from people.

During the 16-day period, Upper and Lower Lakes and Wilson Hill WMAs in St. Lawrence County, including the posted Wetland Restricted and Refuge areas, will be open to visitors each day from sunrise to sunset. Perch River WMA in Jefferson County will also be open to visitors with two exceptions-the Mossentine parking lot and dike will be closed due to construction, and a section of the Stone Mills dike will also be closed. Visitors will be asked to keep a safe distance from the construction areas and obey posted signs. Also, the Perch Lake proper will be open but hours are noon to dusk each day.

Perch River WMA encompasses 7,800 acres in the towns of Brownville, Orleans, and Pamelia. It can be accessed from State Route 12, Allen Rd., Buckminster Road, Vaadi Road, and Perch Lake Road. The Perch Lake proper (accessed by Perch Lake Rd.) will be open from noon until sunset each day. Fishing will be allowed but motorized boats are not permitted.

Upper & Lower Lakes WMA is located about two miles west of the village of Canton along State Route 68 in St. Lawrence County. This WMA, the largest in the region, is an 8,770-acre upland/wetland complex between the Grasse and Oswegatchie rivers.

Wilson Hill WMA is in northern St. Lawrence County, approximately six miles west of the village of Massena off State Route 37. Situated along the St. Lawrence River, the 4,000-acre area consists of several large pools of open water marsh bordered by a combination of dense cattails, brushy wetlands, forest, and upland meadow. Fishing is not allowed in Nichols Pool.

DEC will be conducting habitat and wildlife management projects on the WMAs throughout the 16-day period. Please avoid any operating of machinery and pay attention to temporary signage. For additional information, bird lists, and maps, contact DEC’s Regional Wildlife Office at 315-785-2263 or visit the Western Adirondacks WMA web page.

http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/77537.html

Wednesday
Jul172019

DEC 257 Acres In Smithtown Bay Closed To Shellfishing

 

In response to annual review of multiple data sources, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced new regulations that will close approximately 427 acres across several shellfishing areas in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The affected areas in six Long Island towns are now closed during part or all of the year. Areas being closed, or those having seasonally closed periods extended, were found to have elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria that do not meet New York State’s bacteriological standards for certified (open) shellfish harvesting areas. DEC acted to close the areas to protect the health of shellfish consumers.

Areas affected by new or extended closures are: 

  • 105 acres in Long Island Sound (towns of Brookhaven and Riverhead) will be closed year-round;
  • 132 acres in West Harbor, Fishers Island (town of Southold), will have the existing seasonal closure extended by 14 days;
  • One acre in Gardiners Bay (town of Southold) will be closed seasonally from May 1 through October 31;
  • 23 acres in Great Peconic Bay (town of Southold) will be closed year-round;
  • 80 acres in Lake Montauk (town of East Hampton) will have the existing seasonal closure extended by 60 days;
  • Eight acres in Moriches Bay (town of Southampton), closed seasonally, from May 1 through October 31;
  • Two acres in Greenport Harbor, Shelter Island Sound North (town of Southold), will be closed year-round;
  • 21 acres in Little Northwest Creek, Sag Harbor, (town of East Hampton) will be closed year-round;
  • 10 acres in Shinnecock Bay (town of Southampton) will be closed year-round; and
  • 257 acres in Smithtown Bay (towns of Smithtown and Huntington) will be closed year-round.

In addition, DEC has made the determination to reopen approximately 31 acres in three embayments in Suffolk County. The affected areas, in two towns, will be reopened to shellfishing during all or part of the year or have existing seasonal openings extended by several weeks. The areas being reopened, or having seasonally open periods extended, were found to meet the stringent standards for certified areas. DEC has reopened these areas to provide additional shellfishing opportunities for commercial and recreational harvesters. Nearly one million acres of certified harvest areas around Long Island are available for taking shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops) for human consumption.

Areas affected by the new openings are: 

  • Seven previously closed acres in Bellport Bay (town of Brookhaven) will be opened year-round;
  • 24 acres in Pirates Cove, Fishers Island (town of Southold), will be seasonally open from October 1 through April 30, annually; and
  • Five acres in Mill Creek, a tributary of Shelter Island Sound North (town of Southold), will have its seasonally open period extended by 45 days.

Additional technical amendments to DEC regulations include clarifying and updating landmarks and other boundaries for delineating shellfish closure lines. DEC continues to monitor water quality throughout New York’s marine district as part of its participation in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. DEC will make changes to the certification of shellfish lands as water quality conditions warrant.

In addition, DEC is mailing a Notice to Shellfish Harvesters to individuals that hold a 2019 shellfish diggers permit and reside in the towns in which the affected areas are located. These notices provide information about the changes and maps showing new closure lines. Detailed descriptions of the new landmarks and boundaries for the newly closed and reopened areas, including the new dates of the seasonal closures, are available from DEC by calling 631-444-0492.

The regulations adopting the changes announced today were effective immediately on July 12, and are expected to be published in the July 31, 2019, edition of the New York State RegisterText descriptions and maps of all uncertified (closed) areas are available on DEC’s website at.  

For more information about shellfish safety and New York’s role in the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, visit DEC’s website.
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