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Baykeeper Says Biotoxin is Linked to Cesspools

Kevin McAllister urges lawmakers to step-up to address the issue.

Two warnings issued by the this past week did not come as a surprise to Kevin McAllister, executive director of the nonprofit Peconic Baykeeper, who has been keeping a close eye on the Peconic and South Shore estuaries for years. McAllister said he has long advocated for laws that would go a long way toward preventing problems like those in the waters now.

McAllister, who has offices in Quogue, says the latest biotoxin, which affects filter-feeding shellfish, is a direct result of waste water, primarily waste water that funnels through residential and commercial cesspools, making its way into the groundwater, which feeds into the estuaries.

“These brown and red tides thrive on nutrients. Cesspools release these nutrients in the form of nitrogen into the ground water. This is a long-term problem,” said McAllister.

McAllister said that he has been advocating for new laws since last summer, when his organization released a report that addresses biotoxin.

He said biotoxin blooms does die off after a time and shellfish clean out freshwater, it doesn’t mean biotoxin won’t come back.

“This is a reoccurring theme, and it is showing up with more frequency and with greater damage potential. If we connect the dots, they all lead to waste water,” he said.

To remedy the issue, McAllister said new laws must be created to require state-of-the art cesspools for all new construction projects and land transfers. He also suggested that service plants be constructed in neighborhoods that 30 to 50 homes could tie into.

“There is cesspool technology that can lower the nitrogen released through waste water,” said McAllister. “I know this is challenging and that it is costly, but sometimes it needs to be done.”

And it needs to happen fast, said McAllister, who said if everyone replaced their cesspools today, a positive outcome would not be seen for years down the line.

The reason, McAllister said, is because ground water only travels between one to three feet per day. If a septic system is a half of a mile away from a tributary, it would take five years for the waste to get there.

McAllister says he has been shouting his message from the hilltops, speaking before officials in Southampton, East Hampton and Southold. He has also been before the Suffolk County Department of Health.

“The department of environmental conservation may say this is a natural occurrence, I say boloney.  We are polluting our waters.”

McAllister’s words may not have fallen on death ears. Just last week, after the DEC’s warning was issued, announced a new proposal that will use $140 million from the county’s Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund over the next ten years offset costs for new sewers throughout the county.

Levy said, “For years, we have recognized that sewers are key to economic growth, which is key to controlling people’s property taxes, and that sewers are essential to protecting our groundwater and our bays and waters.”

McAllister said Levy’s proposal looks positive and shows leadership in trying to address the issue.

“I am glad to see it,” he said. 

McAllister said he hopes that other officials will follow suit and take a hard look at the issue.

“I know it has political ramifications, especially in an election year and in this economic climate, but we are going to keep digging ourselves deeper into a hole, if we don’t start addressing this now.” 

Deborah Klughers June 03, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Check out what Kevin had to say about wastewater on Keepin' It Green ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Psv8m6nqYC0
bob June 03, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Too bad I didn't see this sooner. Benja once again ramps up his conjecture and slanderous accusations. As a Trustee, I'd like to see your proof that I am acting in my own private interests? At the expense of water quality in the estuary? I can't believe the Patch allows that. Its one thing to post that you disagree with how something is done, but to accuse an elected official of ethical impropriety, in a public forum, without proof, is in itself improper. Perhaps Benja should concern himself with his own improprieties and run ins with the law. As far as working on water quality, Trustee Jim King has spent years working on testing and bettering the water quality in our creeks, even at his own expense. I've voted against raised septic systems, been vocal about my concerns with the septic issues in development by the wetlands, advocated for better septic designs, at times, insisted on salt water pools near wetlands rather than chlorinated pools, and tried to get land on a salt marsh protected via preservation, but turned down by the Democrat controlled land preservation committee. Yeh- all for my own private interests. might be time the Patch and Suffolk times start checking on Benja's posts. They are beginning to border on actionable libel, in my opinion.
bob June 03, 2011 at 04:47 PM
sorry- I though my name would come up on my Post- Bob Ghosio, Southold Trustee
Eva Salzman December 21, 2011 at 01:21 PM
I see here no proof that Southold and the "merry"band "oppose efforts to address...water quality." This and other reports say otherwise. The real "why" is WHY anyone would use personal attacks rather than presenting evidence why the efforts aren't insufficient. Someone who genuinely cared about the matter (in contrast to Southold who, ostensibly don't) would surely have suggestions not personal attacks. I see no proof here that anyone is acting for their personal interests. When someone makes personal attacks on those obviously working towards general good one's first thought is that that the attacker him/herself has personal interests or an axe to grind. Online sites seem to invite bile and personal attacks when what's needed is the will to take action.
Benja Schwartz December 26, 2011 at 04:23 AM
Facts are facts Southold Town Supervisor "red flagged" an offer of grant money to restore the Hashamomuck Pond because he did not want to appear to be supporting wealthy waterfront property owners. Southold Town Trustees granted a permit to deposit wood chips on Fleets Neck Beach. The private interest of the property owner is to turn the beach into a buildable lot. When the first permit was issued the Trustees excuse was "We had to give him something." Anyone who wants to can contact me to discuss the Wade case. Or the Tepper travesty. A house and deck built on the beach overlapping property lines on both sides with no permit permitted to stay because "We try to be nice guys." My memory is not perfect, but I am not making personal attacks. The actions and statements of Southold Town officials are hazardous to the environment.

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