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Dec 1, 2008 11:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Baykeeper files petition for no-discharge zone

Dec 1, 2008 11:13 AM

Every time a boater discharges waste into the Long Island South Shore estuary, water quality suffers. In order to keep this from happening, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister wants the estuary marked as a no-discharge zone.

“This is no longer the 1960s or ’70s, when the boats were smaller and didn’t have toilets onboard,” Mr. McAllister said. “Now the boats are larger and have multiple toilets onboard, and it’s just not appropriate to flush the toilet into the marinas anymore.”

It is illegal to discharge untreated sewage into the estuary, but it is still legal to release treated sewage. Treated sewage carries chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols and chlorine that can harm water quality and affect human health, Mr. McAllister said.

Last week a petition prepared by Mr. McAllister’s office was handed to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation with the goal of achieving the special designation, which outlaws the discharge of boat sewage in protected waters. The petition was signed by representatives of the Fire Island National Seashore and six towns bordering the estuary, including Brookhaven and Southampton.

The estuary starts at Long Beach and extends 75 miles east to Southampton Village. The estuary reserve was created by the New York State Legislature in 1993.

“We are, in a bipartisan fashion, very committed to the cleanliness of the water and that is something I can be very proud of,” said Brookhaven 5th District Councilman Tim Mazzei, whose council district encompasses portions of the Great South Bay and Moriches Bay. “To dump it in the bay would be obnoxious.”

No-discharge zones were created under the federal Clean Water Act, established by Congress in 1972. Twenty-one states have applied the designation. In New York, nine water bodies are protected under the act including the Peconic Estuary, Lake Champlain and the Port Jefferson Harbor Complex.

According to federal statute, before naming a water body as a no-discharge zone the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines whether available public and private pump-out boats and stations meet the current need. If the agency finds there are not enough, the petition is not granted.

According to Mr. McAllister, the number of available pump-out facilities along the South Shore Estuary is in keeping with EPA requirements. There is a ratio of 300 to 600 boats per pump-out facility, he said.

“We performed an analysis and we believe there are more than enough pump-out boats and treatment facilities to accommodate the boats in the South Shore Estuary,” the baykeeper said.

Mr. McAllister’s petition asks the DEC and EPA to make an “expeditious” review of the reserve with the aim of enacting the designation by the start of the 2009 boating season in May.

“This is one step that isn’t extremely complicated and will in fact result in the elimination of a polluting source,” Mr. McAllister said. “It’s gotta help water quality, period.”

Southampton Town handled 98,000 gallons of waste from boaters this season, which runs from May to mid-October. The numbers for Brookhaven were not immediately available.

Boaters face stiff penalties if caught discharging in no-discharge zones. Those caught can be charged with pollution of the waters of the marine district, a misdemeanor. Boaters also face a fine of up to $25,000 and a maximum prison term of one year.

Both Southampton Town Trustee Eric Shultz and Mr. Mazzei believed that enacting a no-discharge zone in the South Shore Estuary would not cause any additional hardship on boaters. Many already use pump-out facilities, they said.

“A no-discharge zone is the next logical step that would come after our successful pump-out boat program,” which was began in Southampton Town in 1991, said Mr. Shultz.

“I hope it doesn’t cause any additional hardship for them,” Mr. Shultz continued, “but we have to look out for the health of the bay and a clean bay benefits them too. It’s just part of being a responsible boater.”

Most boaters choose to use the pump-out facilities to avoid polluting open water, said Eddie Oehler, a marina operator at Windswept Marina in East Moriches. His marina accepts about 5,000 gallons annually at the marina pump-out station, located on Atlantic Avenue.

There are 150 boats at the marina, and about 40 are equipped with on-board toilets, he said.

“That’s why we offer a pump-out facility for the guys,” Mr. Oehler said. “It keeps the water clean.”

The state DEC declined to comment on the petition but a spokeswoman spoke in favor of additional protections to the South Shore Estuary.

“In the past, DEC has supported no-discharge zones to help protect New York’s sensitive inshore waters,” DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said in an e-mail. “Though we won’t comment directly on this petition, DEC will continue to consider and evaluate all feasible options and requests including the designation of new no-discharge zones to help improve water quality in our surrounding water bodies.”

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Good going Kevin McAllister ! Now we need to address the problem of Montauk Highway's stormwater runoff going directly into Shinnecock Bay at Bay Avenue , East Quogue , Weesuck Creek next to the public dock , another REALLY big drain going into Weesuck Creek by The Mad Hatter , and other numerous locations on Montauk Highway and other roadways.
By treating this stormwater runoff the bays water quality will greatly improve.
Southampton Town had a stormwater runoff program of drains on town ...more
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Dec 3, 08 11:41 AM
I remember the storm water drain located imeadiatly east of the East Quogue Fire Dept. on Montauk Hw. The drain went into pools located in the back yard of my parents home. The property is owned by Suffolk County. Many times they would overflo with water. Suffolk County would be called to clean them. These pools did not flow into the bay. Their is a large water drain pipe that flows directly down Bay Ave into Shinnecock Bay. At low tide one can see the pipe opening . It is large enougt ...more
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Dec 3, 08 5:20 PM
Bravo to Kevin!!!

A clean productive bay system is not a thing of the past. With the constant effort and focus of people such as the Peconic Baykeeper it will be possible to regain and reclaim some of the special marine character that made (and makes) the East End so attractive to visitors. In case no one has noticed, it is the tourist and second home owner business that is the chief fiscal engine that drives our local economy. It is not, as some would like to make you believe, the housing ...more
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Dec 3, 08 5:45 PM
Carol Combs do you realize you misspelled your own last name ?
If you think the drain at the end of Bay Avenue is big you should see the size of the one draining into Little Weesuck Creek northeast of the Mad Hatter.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Dec 4, 08 7:48 PM

I did misspell my last name.
I never had knowledge of the drain you are referring to flowing into Little Wesuck Creek. The only other story that I heard was several men plugged up a drain many years ago in that area that was flowing into Weesuck Creek from the than Ambassador Inn. This is not the direction you are speaking of.

I have checked with another historian who has no knowledge of this Little Weesuck Creek drain. pipe He and I would be very interested ...more
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Dec 6, 08 8:19 PM
The drain I'm referring to is located just south of the dirt road that used to lead down to the little marina that was owned by bill swann and now is used by chesterfield associates to dock their lc's and barges.The road is blocked off now.Their is a real estate office to the north of it.I remember as a kid exploring the area and finding this huge drain.
Is that other historian Lee Phillips ?
I think you probably now who I am by now - Privateer Matt ? Ring a bell ?
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Dec 7, 08 1:08 PM
I did feel your answer to me was what I had suspected. The important thing is if this drain is still in operation today? If so where is the best place to report this and have it looked. into.
I suspect you also live on Weesuck Creek as we historians.....

Carol Combes East Quogue born

By Carol (109), East Quogue on Dec 7, 08 2:07 PM
I wouldn't doubt this drain is still in operation as are all the other drains that drain Montauk Highway , a county road.Suffolk County should get it together and modernize these drains so run off doesn't go directly into the water.Maybe run it through a filter system like Babylon Town is experimenting with.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Dec 7, 08 7:23 PM
Nice photo. We will also be keeping a watchful eye on bay pollution. Thank for being so concerned.
Carol Combes ,East Quogue born
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Dec 9, 08 3:04 PM