Press Release Archives

Bay to Sound Trail Explorations and Cleanups

New Trails in Town of Southold Ready for the Public

(Southold, New York… October 2018) Group for the East End (groupfortheeastend.org) and Town of Southold are moving forward with the third phase of the Bay to Sound Project to cleanup a series of newly created trails connecting from Peconic Bay to the Long Island Sound in Southold and Greenport. Throughout the month of October, the Group, the Town, and fellow Southold citizens will lead volunteer efforts and explorations. Below is the schedule for the next month:

Explore Arshamomaque Preserve
Sunday, October 7, 2018 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Join one of the Group’s naturalists as we wander through the newest section of Arshamomaque Preserve. We will be looking for animals of all sizes and the evidence they leave behind – including the resident River Otters. Footprints, nests, burrows, scrapings and animal signs will be our targets during this nature walk, while we also learn about native and invasive plants, vernal pools, and future plans for the Bay to Sound Project. This is a family-friendly exploration.

For reservations and meeting location, please contact Christine at 631-765-6450 ext. 215 or ctylee@eastendenvironment.org.

Trail Cleanups Throughout the Bay to Sound Trail System
Saturday, October 13, 2018 (Arshamomaque Preserve – meet at Main and Pipes Neck Roads)
Saturday, October 20, 2018 (Pipes Neck Road – 1/8 South of Main Road)
Sunday, October 28, 2018 (Arshamomaque Preserve – meet at Chapel Lane parking area)
*All are 8 to 10:30 a.m.
Take pride in your town by joining one or more (or even all three!) trail cleanups this fall in one of the many preserves that make up the Bay to Sound Trail System. Activities include: trail clearing, raking/spreading wood chips, and garbage removal from legacy dumping. Gloves, bags and necessary equipment will be provided, as well as water and snacks. Perfect feel good activity for the soul or if you have community volunteer service requirements.

For more information, please contact Aaron at 631-765-6450 x218 or acvirgin@eastendenvironment.org

The Town of Southold had received a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to add to existing trails, connecting them to create trails that would go from Long Island Sound to Peconic Bay. The Town then contracted Group for the East End to lead the volunteer effort to get this project started, which began in April 2018 and involved removing brush, trash, and clearing paths for people to walk/hike, etc. In this next phase, nature outings led by the Group invite locals and visitors alike to help make a different from bay to sound. Future events in the works include the exploration of new preserves, breeding bird surveys, river otter monitoring, dragonfly workshops, and more.

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Environmentalists and Elected Officials Discuss Unified Action Plan for Controversial Sand Mine Site Confirmed to Be Polluting the Aquifer

READ THE SUFFOLK COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT REPORT HERE

(July 2018… Sag Harbor, New York) On Friday, July 13 at 10 a.m., Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End, Noyac Civil Council, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, and other environmentalists and community leaders gathered at the Old Noyac Schoolhouse to respond to tainted water samples at the controversial Sand Land property, which is operated by Wainscott Sand and Gravel, and discuss a unified action plan. The final report confirms significant contamination of the aquifer.

Key Action Plan Steps:

  1. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) should deny the facilities upcoming mining permit renewal
  2. The NYSDEC should immediately deny the facility’s proposed expansion plans for the mine
  3. All vegetative waste and related processing operations should be removed from the site.
  4. Governor Cuomo must be engaged to make sure the DEC does its job, closes this facility and protects our water.
  5. The Town should aggressively enforce its own local regulations to keep waste materials of any type off the site.

For nearly a decade, concerned citizens, environmentalists, and elected officials have fought for an investigation into the possible groundwater contamination associated with the mining, demolition debris and waste processing operations at the pre-existing, nonconforming Sand Land mine located off Millstone Road. After securing a court order, a County investigation of the facility finally began in late 2017.

Last week, the Suffolk County Health Department released a final assessment of its 2017 test-well sampling program and confirmed the mine and its operations had significantly contaminated the area’s underlying groundwater aquifer. The study identified contamination by toxic heavy metals, nitrates and even radioactivity at levels well above drinking water standards. The contamination was found to have penetrated deeply into the area’s groundwater aquifer, posing a threat both to private drinking water wells near the facility as well as the region’s long-term drinking water supply.

President of Noyac Civil Council, Elena Loretto, introduced the speakers, many of which have been working diligently since the beginning to advocate for this investigation. “We would like to see our elected officials act immediately,” she said. “If we lost the entire aquifer, we would have to leave. We could not water our plants, could not give water to our pets, we could not drink it. We’re desperate, anxious, and exasperated. We cannot wait any longer.”

Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca said, “What the County expected to find, they found. They concluded the contamination has moved deep into the aquifer and it is moving west, northwest. It was a serious enough problem to start testing wells and this is becoming an ongoing issue. The fundamental problem is you have the wrong use in the wrong place. The contamination demonstrates why and evidence now support this. Enough is enough.”

“We have been working on this report for many years,” said New York State Legislator Bridget Fleming. “There is no disputing the conclusions in this report that the ongoing activities at this site are having a negative impact on the groundwater. Folks need to be reassured their drinking water supply is safe. It’s the only supply we have and its right below our feet.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the Town is deeply committed to protecting the aquifer. “Sadly, the resource has been compromised,” he said. “There is nothing to celebrate in this report. This is bad news that our aquifer has been contaminated. All the work we have been doing to protect critical resources has been lost in some respects.”

“Water is the thing that unifies us as a people, in the past and in the future,” said Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni. “My view is there are few things more important than the protection of our aquifer.”

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele shared the iron levels found in test wells are 200 times greater than the drinking water standard and manganese are 100 times greater than the drinking water standard. “We don’t see numbers like this,” he said. “It’s not just the intensity and concentration, it’s also the depth of the ground water. The South Fork is the deepest part of the aquifer and we should be protecting it the most. Public health is at risk. We know what the problem is and we know what the solution is: shut it down.”

 

Executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment Adrienne Esposito said it is time to call on New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to shut down the sand mine and clean it up. “The bottom line is the facts are in, they are conclusive, and Sand Land is polluting and contaminating our sole source of drinking water. We cannot tolerate it and the only thing we accept as a community is shutting it down.”

History of Efforts to Investigate Sand Land

Despite its longstanding participation in the groundwater testing that has confirmed contaminants from these industrial processing operations, NYSDEC has consistently failed to address, or even acknowledge, these groundwater risks even when given the opportunity through the review of related permits, such as those related to sand mining operations where such vegetative waste processing facilities have become common. In its 2013 review of Sand Land’s mining permit renewal, a permit that was granted, NYSDEC ignored substantive groundwater contamination concerns raised by the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County Health Department, recognized environmental organizations and local civic organizations.

In response to public and local government outrage over the State’s failure to fully consider and potentially address likely vegetative waste contamination during its review of the Sand Land mine permit, the Suffolk County Legislature eventually passed legislation directing SCDHS to conduct groundwater testing at the Sand Land site. 

Over the course of the next two years, the owners of the mine fought to keep SCDHS from installing the mandated well resulting in a legal battle that went on until August of 2017, when Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli strongly affirmed the County’s right to test the property for contamination, and ordered that the investigation proceed. SCDHS conducted well installation and testing in October and November of 2017, and the results of the testing became available in early 2018.

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Environmental Groups to Screen STRAWS Documentary Across the East End

(East End of Long Island, NY… June 2018) In partnership with the Strawless Summer campaign, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS – amseas.org), Group for the East End (groupfortheeastend.org), and Surfrider, Eastern Long Island Chapter (easternli.surfrider.org) are hosting screenings of the documentary, STRAWS, to raise an awareness of the impact of single-use plastics, particularly straws, on the marine environment and its inhabitants. The 30-minute film by Linda Booker will be followed by a Q&A with all three organizations. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, June 21 at the Shelter Island Library at 7 p.m.

Monday, June 25 at the Cutchogue Library at 6 p.m.

Thursday, June 28 at the Hamptons Bays Library at 7 p.m. (includes a lecture by AMCS – Marine Debris in Our Marine Environment)

Thursday, July 5 at Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue at 7 p.m.

Thursday, July 19 at Greenport Cinema at 4 p.m.

It is estimated that 500 million plastic straws are used once and tossed in the United States every day. AMCS promotes marine conservation through action, which is achieved through education, research, and response. Beach cleanups are one of their major programs, and in 2018 so far, the organization has removed more than 860 pounds of marine debris during 55 beach cleanups across Long Island.

“Collecting data on the debris removed from a beach is an important part of a beach cleanup,” said Hannah Winslow, AMCS field biologist and education coordinator. “We know that marine debris harms the environment and the marine mammals and sea turtles that depend on that environment. What we need to understand is how to mitigate these interactions, and that requires an understanding of the marine debris prevalent in and around our waters. Knowing how prevalent and detrimental straws are in our marine environment allows us to facilitate solutions by bringing awareness and doing what we can to stop the demand for plastic, single-use straws.”

Group for the East End outreach coordinator Jessica Kennelly said, “Change starts with education. Without educating the public on the harmful effects that marine debris, including plastic straws, has on wildlife, it will continue to happen and worsen. We are able to bring awareness to the community and make a change to better the world.”

Christine Tylee, Group for the East End program and stewardship coordinator said, “’Protecting the nature of the place you love,’ is Group for the East End’s slogan. We have been advocating for the health of our environment since 1972, which means not only protecting and preserving open space and our bays and harbors, but also conserving our wildlife. We have seen the negative impacts of straws and other single-use plastics on animals and the environment, and are excited to be part of a movement to go strawless to further our mission.”

Surfrider, Eastern Long Island Chapter has spearheaded this campaign. This winter in Greenport, the group conducted a beach cleanup and collected 922 straws from a single beach. “The ultimate goal of Strawless Summer is to reduce the amount of straws that are being used in Eastern Long Island,” says Colleen Henn, Surfrider clean water coordinator/Eastern Long Island Chapter coordinator who heads up the Strawless Summer campaign. “We are trying to reach that goal by encouraging restaurants to switch to a more sustainable alternative, and also educating the public about the negative effects of plastic straws and other single-use plastics on the marine environment. This movement largely relies on word of mouth between volunteers, restaurants, local government, and community groups in order to reach as far as we can.”

For more information about Strawless Summer, visit easternli.surfrider.org/programs/strawless-summer.

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Group for the East End Celebrates Earth Day and Launches the New York State Wildlife Action Plan Website

(Southold, New York… April 2018) After nearly two years of research and development, Group for the East End (groupfortheeastend.org) unveiled the New York State Wildlife Action Plan (nyswap.org) website at a press conference on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at the 225-acre Hallock State Park Preserve in Riverhead. In celebration of Earth Day, and as part of the organization’s 45-year commitment to the protection and restoration of local wildlife populations, the New York State Wildlife Action Plan website is a powerful conservation resource and a sobering reminder of just how many local wildlife species are currently experiencing a decline in population and even local extinction. Bob DeLuca and Aaron Virgin of Group for the East End were joined by NYS Senator Kenneth LaValle, NYS Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Regional NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Director, Carrie Gallagher, Robert DiGiovanni of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, and Mike Bottini of Long Island Nature Organization to launch the website and provide an update on the conservation status of local species.

The website features valuable information on more than 50 high priority Long Island wildlife species that have been deemed by the State to be in imminent need of conservation action. In addition to providing specific information about all of Long Island’s threatened species, the site provides visitors with specific information about where they can see wildlife, how they can learn more about the wildlife in their community, how to manage their property to enhance its value to wildlife, who to contact if they find injured wildlife, some helpful “Dos and Don’ts” about interacting with wildlife, how to get involved. Visitors will also find current case studies of ongoing species restoration projects and campaigns including Plum Island preservation, shorebird monitoring and protection, osprey monitoring, and even the restoration of Long Island’s river otter population, which was once believed to be locally extinct.

“Once we read the (SWAP) plan, and consulted with the NYSDEC, we felt an obligation to raise awareness about the plight of our local wildlife and educate others about the issue,” said Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca. “More importantly, we are working to teach others what they can do to help restore the local wildlife populations that enrich our lives and, in many cases, have substantial economic value for our region.”

“This is a good time to get the public engaged and involved,” said Senator LaValle. “When we look at our habitat, it is constantly being challenged. I think it’s critically important for our young people to start getting involved, and I think today the general public are more into protecting the habitat.”

Assemblyman Fred Thiele touched on the importance of sharing our habitat with wildlife. “What we need to keep in mind is that these lands and waters are thankfully not sterile, and we’re not the only ones occupying them,” he said. “Part of the richness of life out here is the wildlife that we enjoy. The fact is, knowledge and information are power, and outreach to the public and providing information to them about the fact that we do have a wildlife action plan, and species and animals that we take for granted that are a part of our lives every day but are endangered. If the public is informed about that, they will be with us to help protect those species.”

The site was developed with research assistance provided by interns from Dartmouth College and George Washington Universities. With the support of the Long Island Community Foundation, Group for the East End launched this site as part of a wider regional campaign to educate the public about local wildlife populations and engage more Long Islanders in the effort to protect and restore our native wildlife populations, including many marine fish and shellfish which were found to be on the State’s list of species in significant need of conservation. In fact, this was a specific recommendation of the SWAP plan which was adopted in late 2015.  Based on this recommendation, Group for the East End volunteered to be a local assistant in getting the message out, as well as working directly on species recovery and habitat restoration projects.

“One goal is effectively communicating with all audiences regarding conservation of these species to inform the public and engage the conservation community,” said Carrie Gallagher, Regional Director of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, in regards to some of the main goals of the website. “What better tool? We haven’t had the ability to do that at DEC but now we have a partner who has taken on that responsibility that this is going to make sure the information is going to be communicated effectively.”

Following a “scroll-through” of the website, several environmentalists and scientists provided updates on their own species research and its relationship to the SWAP. “In all my years of doing stranding response, I have responded to over 4,500 animals, and I’ve never been the person to call one in,” said Robert DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. “The public has always done that. We need to give more tools to the public, and this is a great tool for the public to understand what to do and what not to do. That’s a big part of why Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was formed; we wanted to engage the public in their backyard and in their community.”

“The distribution of otters on Long Island has at least doubled,” Mike Bottini, naturalist and founder of Long Island Nature Organization, compared to a river otter survey conducted about 10 years ago. “Their nocturnal habits are saving them. Surveying Long Island is quite an undertaking. After putting the word out, I realized there’s a wealth of information out there from people that write down everything they see. It was amazing how many people have been involved.”

Group for the East End vice president Aaron Virgin discussed shorebird and osprey monitoring programs across the East End. He also shared how resources such as this could set young individuals on a path toward wildlife conservation. “We’re collaborating with the New Suffolk Waterfront civic to have an osprey camera go live very shortly in New Suffolk,” he said. “That’s a window that could be a wild moment for a seventh grader that’s on the web and they come across our camera and say ‘Wow, I think I’ll watch this for a while.’ That could be the turning point that allows that child to go to study wildlife ecology.”

In addition to the Group’s outreach work, dozens of organizations, government agencies, civic institutions, and others are working to implement and educate the findings and recommendations of the New York State Wildlife Action Plan.

For more information about the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, visit nyswap.org. For more information about Group for the East End, visit groupfortheeastend.org or call 631.765.6450. Find them online at Facebook/groupeastend, Instagram/@groupfortheeastend, and Twitter/@g4ee. For media inquiries, contact Rachel Bosworth at rachel@rachelbosworth.com or 631.220.1220.

 

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East End Medication Disposal Program Collects More Than 1,850 Pounds of Substances in 2017

(Southold, NY… April 2018) In a partnership with Group for the East End and seven local police departments, the East End Medication Disposal Program (groupfortheeastend.org/meds) collected 1,872 pounds of substances in 2017, resulting in nearly 6,000 pounds collected since the program’s inception in October 2013. With support from Suffolk County’s Drinking Water Protection Program, the program encourages residents to dispose of unused medications safely and anonymously in a Medication Drop Box permanently located at participating police stations in an effort to keep these potential pollutants out of our drinking water.

Studies have found that when prescription and over-the-counter medications are flushed down the toilet, as was previously recommended, they can contaminate of our drinking water, as well as our bays and harbors. Another benefit of proper disposal of medications include helping to prevent drug misuse, abuse, and harm to children, pets, and others. By anonymously disposing of medications at local police stations, you ensure that they do not end up in the wrong hands and importantly do not end up in our environment.

“Water quality and pollution are a growing concern across the East End, and we must take every step necessary to help protect our bays, harbors, and other waterways” said Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca. “This pharmaceutical take-back program continues to be successful, and is just one of many innovative local efforts that is breaking new ground in the protection and restoration of our fragile drinking water and surface water resources.”

The recent numbers include 1,872 pounds of substances collected. Reported numbers from the participating police stations in 2017 include 120 pounds from Sag Harbor, 160 pounds from Shelter Island, 700 pounds from Southold, 300 pounds from East Hampton Town, 220 pounds from East Hampton Village, 172 pounds from Westhampton Beach, and 200 pounds from one collection in Southampton, which has another collection from the end of 2017 waiting to be incinerated. Those remaining numbers are not yet available.

The East End Medication Disposal Program is safe and anonymous. After substances are discarded in the drop box, they are secured by the police department until an officer transports them to the Covanta Incinerator in East Northport. Covanta provides the service free of charge, as do the police departments.  Group for the East End is grateful to all of the police departments that participate in this important program, and notes its necessity considering the number of pounds of substances that are collected each year to keep our bays, harbors, and drinking water safe.

More information on what medications and items can be discarded and where can be found online at groupfortheeastend.org/meds.

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Sand Land Test Well Data Reveals Substantial Water Contamination

(March 2018… Sag Harbor, New York) On Friday, March 9 at 10:30 a.m., Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Stuart Cohen, PhD, Group for the East End, Noyac Civic Council, along with other environmentalists and community leaders at the Old Noyac Schoolhouse to release long awaited groundwater test results on the controversial Sand Land property, which is operated by Wainscott Sand and Gravel in Bridgehampton. After years of community concern and a two-year battle to avoid investigation, the Suffolk County Health Department took action and installed a series of test wells. The first round of data is in, and the results show that the aquifer has been contaminated.

It has been nearly a decade since the potential risks of significant groundwater contamination from open vegetative waste processing facilities have been confirmed by Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and New York Department of State (NYDOS). Last August, the State Supreme Court issued a ruling to allow the SCDHS to install these groundwater test wells on the mine’s property. Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Group for the East End filed a Freedom of Information Request to gain access to the water testing data.

President of Noyac Civic Council, Elena Loretto, spoke of Sand Land’s beginning, and initial concerns from the civic organization when the sand mine was founded. “There were concerns that this would contribute noise, odors, things flying in the air, and pollution, even back in 1961,” she said. “We were way ahead of the curve. The Noyac Civic Council has remained very active in looking at water issues.”

Water quality expert Stuart Cohen of Environmental and Turf Service, Inc. has a PhD in Physical Organic Chemistry from George Washington University. As a certified ground water professional, he presented the findings from the test wells. “What we have here is evidence of contamination of the aquifer, and I would bet that it is migrating off site,” he said. “Groundwater elevations are high here, and it is going to move off site where there are private wells down gradient. I believe we have a situation where Suffolk County Department of Health Services should look at the impact on private and public wells down gradient. I also recommend to stop the source of the contamination. It’s an unregulated activity, the composting operation and the dumping. I’m concerned there is more pollution migrating through the subsurface.”

The primary contaminants found in these investigations have been heavy metals including manganese, arsenic, chromium and lead. In some cases, these metals, notably manganese, have been found in concentrations well over 100 times the drinking water standard. Testing has also confirmed high nitrate levels and radionuclides well in excess of expected background levels for Long Island. These results are particularly concerning in areas designated as Special Groundwater Protection Areas or Aquifer Protection Districts, due to their importance for groundwater recharge, source water and drinking water protection.

Data from the test wells sampled shows that the aquifer has been contaminated by many of the same heavy metals and constituent pollutants found at other vegetative waste processing sites across Suffolk County. Despite the fact that the water table lies nearly 100 feet below the current surface of the mine, which is approximately 60 feet lower than the natural grade of the area, some of these contaminants significantly exceed drinking water levels and it is likely that more contamination is making its way down through the soil.

Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca said, “These results would be concerning in any test well sample, but to see this level of contamination in a designated water supply protection area is deeply disturbing. Sadly, these data clearly validate the contamination concerns that we, local officials, and many other members of the public raised for years in questioning the state’s lax oversight of this facility.”

“Sand Land asked the DEC two years ago to expand their sand mining operation because they admitted in writing that they are out of sand,” said Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito. “So, we have a sand mine operating with no sand, yet, they still operate. What exactly are they doing? Now we know. They are dumping waste, mulch, and other hazardous materials in our special groundwater protection area. We’ve asked the DEC to deny the expansion, and now we need the town to do that as well. Sand Land’s permit ends December 2018. We need the DEC to deny a renewal of that permit.”

History of Efforts to Investigate Sand Land

Despite its longstanding participation in the groundwater testing that has confirmed contaminants from these industrial processing operations, NYSDEC has consistently failed to address, or even acknowledge, these groundwater risks even when given the opportunity through the review of related permits, such as those related to sand mining operations where such vegetative waste processing facilities have become common. In its 2013 review of Sand Land’s mining permit renewal, a permit that was granted, NYSDEC ignored substantive groundwater contamination concerns raised by the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County Health Department, recognized environmental organizations and local civic organizations.  

In response to public and local government outrage over the State’s failure to fully consider and potentially address likely vegetative waste contamination during its review of the Sand Land mine permit, the Suffolk County Legislature eventually passed legislation directing SCDHS to conduct groundwater testing at the Sand Land site.

Over the course of the next two years, the owners of the mine fought to keep SCDHS from installing the mandated well resulting in a legal battle that went on until August of 2017, when Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Santorelli strongly affirmed the County’s right to test the property for contamination, and ordered that the investigation proceed. SCDHS conducted well installation and testing in October and November of 2017, and the results of the testing became available in early 2018.

Contact: Rachel Bosworth
media@eastendenvironment.org | 631.220.1220

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