Five years later, Long Islanders are still reeling from Sandy impacts

Originally published at The Osprey

Pellets of hail splashed into the puddles in the parking lot. White-capped waves crashed on the coast. Fully grown trees bent over to the ground. Above, a gull flew toward the shore, but was moving backward in the wind.

“It was nice of Hurricane Sandy to show up for her anniversary,” Rabbi Glenn Jacob, executive director of New York Interfaith Power and Light, joked.

It was on the same day, October 29, that in 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City and Long Island, causing $71 billion in damage. On the anniversary of the storm, about a hundred local residents gathered under a pavilion at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst for a vigil and a call toward the state government for action.

“Sandy is not over,” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said. “Communities are still feeling impacts. Five years later, funds have still not been allocated to ensure that all the problems have been fixed.”

After the storm, about 11,000 qualified homeowners without flood insurance enrolled in NY Rising, the state-run housing recovery program. There are still 2,400 that have not been rebuilt, according to a source within the program.

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On the Lindenhurst coast, down the street from the rally, some houses still have plywood boards over the windows, with plastic covering flapping in the wind. After storms like the one this weekend, nuisance flooding still affects the low-lying residential areas, as drainage systems were damaged and never properly repaired after the hurricane.

“We’ve been fighting an uphill battle for five years,” Donald Werle, a Lindenhurst resident, said. “Instead of putting things back together the right way, the government came in and half-assed it.”

While Werle’s home was repaired after an expense of $100,000, some houses, he said, were never fixed. A foreclosed building next door is now only home to mildew and mold.

“There’s black mold all up the wall, and a school across the street,” Werle said, pointing to Harding Avenue Elementary School. “I’m not looking for them to make things special. I just want it healthy to live here again.”

One woman was in tears Sunday as she talked about her experience after the storm. It took her family four years to receive money from their flood insurance claim. But most of all, she was concerned with the health effects of the storm, which she said impacted her now 6-year-old daughter.

“Ella was diagnosed with one autoimmune disease,” Beth Henry, a school teacher that lives in Massapequa, said. “Then she was diagnosed with another.”

Adopt a House, which Henry is affiliated with, was a main sponsor of the event. It is a nonprofit agency dedicated to rebuilding local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. The organization both aids recovering families both monetarily and with case-by-case advisory, director Michele Insinga said.

Several sponsors of the event also made a call for government action to combat climate change, in the wake of the worst north Atlantic hurricane season since 2005.

“We need proactive measures,” Jacob said. “Long Island is just one big sandbar, which makes it incredibly susceptible to rising sea levels and tropical storms. We can’t keep being reactive. We must be proactive.”

“Spooky Walk” raises over $150,000 for special needs summer camp

Originally published at The Osprey

She’s dressed in red and white polka dots, the same pattern as the wall behind her. She holds a red balloon in front of her face, while a stripped bulb flickers over her head. Her face is flecked with spattered blood over her Glasgow grin. Around the corner is a two-faced pagliacci brandishing a chainsaw while down the hall, a demented Bozo lurks in a bathroom stall.

The “Psycho Circus,” horrifying by any estimation, is one of four exhibits at this year’s “Spooky Walk,” an annual fundraiser at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches. Over two weekends, the haunted house walk is estimated to raise over $150,000 for the camp, which serves children with developmental disabilities.

“One hundred percent of the money goes to the camp,” Marcella Weiss, who helped start the event in 1989, said. “What we make here goes a pretty good way, while the rest is raised through fundraisers by the rotaries and other community events.”

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The camp’s total operating cost is about $800,000, Weiss said. Funding efforts like the “Spooky Walk” allow the camp to keep a near one-to-one camper-to-counselor ratio, while also helping to provide financial aid for parents sending their children to camp.

“This isn’t a business to make money for ourselves,” Marina Gress, an event vendor who has been involved with Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck for the past 25 years, said. “All of this is for the kids.”

Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck is the only overnight summer camp on Long Island that exclusively serves children with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities.

The camp accepts up to 50 campers per week-long session, with 10 to 12 sessions throughout the summer, and requests to join have increased in each of the last four years, Weiss said. Across the country, autism is diagnosed in one of 68 children, according the latest available Center for Disease Control data, taken in 2014. The prevalence has increased over the last 30 years, from a one in 2,000 rate in the 1980s, according to the CDC.

As the camp has grown, so has the fundraising. Weiss recalled the origin of the “Spooky Walk,” nearly three decades ago, which was spurred from her own love of Halloween Her parents used to deck out their own house as the neighborhood’s haunted destination.

“We sold tickets for two dollars each,” Weiss said of the first annual walk. “We had 400 people and we made $800, and we thought that was amazing.”

Today, attendance for the event nears 3,000 people per night, with the line to enter stretching over 500 feet, a wait time of over an hour. All of the 600 “Spooky Walk” workers — set designers, actors, venders, even the DJ   — are volunteers. There are four different “houses,” each with their own theme, scary in their own way.  

“Everything you see is put up by us,” Nicole Jakob, overseer of the “Club Boo” exhibit, said. “It’s all arts and crafts, it’s what turns one of these buildings into a nightclub.”

The whole event has grown into a community Halloween tradition in the small Suffolk County village. Even adults who had never been were taken aback from the thrill factor.

“It was amazing. The houses were awesome,” Eve Goncalves, who, with her son, were first-time attendees, said. “It’s definitely something worth supporting, though I wasn’t expecting it to be so scary.”

The “Spooky Walk” will be open again for its second weekend of the year this Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 9 p.m..

Leaders of immigration and Jewish groups rally at Rep. Lee Zeldin’s office

Originally published at The Osprey

Several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY/1) office in Patchogue on Monday afternoon to denounce the congressman’s inaction and complicity with what rally leaders called “Trump’s white supremacist agenda.”

The event was sponsored by Bend the Arc, a Jewish activist group, and co-sponsored by Progressive East End Reformers and Make the Road NY, a Latino immigrants’ rights group. One of the protesters, 23-year-old France Duffoo, said in a speech that she felt “freed” by DACA, the Obama immigration act that Trump and Zeldin are looking to repeal.

“It gave me the opportunity to be part of society,” Duffoo, who moved to the United States from Peru at age 6. “When you don’t have papers, you’re not part of society. My parents, undocumented, have suffered that a very long time … With DACA, I was finally able to study, to work, to drive. It let me be a person.”

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Click to view audio slideshow.

The speech, one of five given during the event, was followed by a rousing applause. Several people in the crowd held signs, ranging from calls to action to caricatured drawings of Zeldin.

Organizers of the event stated four main demands to Zeldin: a censure of President Trump, a demand for the firing of White House official Stephen Miller, a call to remove Confederate symbols from the Capitol, and the passage of a clean DREAM Act to protect DACA beneficiaries.

Group organizers understand the unlikelihood of Zeldin, a fringe right-wing politician, adhering to that set of demands, however.

“Lee Zeldin is a personal embarrassment to us,” Bend the Arc spokeswoman Phyllis Hartmann said following the event. “He’s given no reason to think that he’s going to change. Really, I think the long-term goal is to replace him in the election in 2018.”

Two Jewish leaders, Rabbis Stephen Karol and Jan Uhrbach, spoke on the hypocrisy of Zeldin, one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, continuing to support leadership that has shown anti-Semitic undertones and allegiances.

“You cannot include Nazis as part of your political coalition, and not be complicit in their hate and violence,” Uhrbach said in her speech.

With every point the rabbi made, the crowd shouted “yes” in response with fists in the air, a theme throughout the high-energy event.

“I don’t understand how Zeldin can represent so many immigrants, so many undocumented people, and continue supporting this unjust platform,” college student Rodman Serrano, the son of El Salvadorian immigrants, said.

Trump himself has been more open in recent weeks to striking a deal with Democrats on DACA, but he is asking for funding for anti-immigration provisions — increased legal immigration barriers, a border wall, etc. — in response, according to a White House release on Sunday night.

Zeldin’s office did not respond to requests for interview for this story.

“I hope that seeing so many groups come together, seeing the energy not only here on Long Island, but across the country,” Uhrbach said after the event. “That it will at least give our Congress a little bit of courage to stand up for American values.”

Patchogue telescope business relocates to Stony Brook after 32 years

By Skyler Gilbert and Brittany Bernstein

Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, the largest telescope store on Long Island, will hold a grand opening this Saturday to celebrate the business’s move to Stony Brook Village after spending 32 years in Patchogue.

The store had outgrown its previous location in Patchogue, owner Jeff Norwood said. He chose to move to a place with a larger showroom to display an array of telescopes, instead of housing the majority of its pieces in basement storage.

Much to Norwood’s chagrin, he was unable to find a reasonably priced vacancy in Patchogue, which has experienced downtown revitalization and business growth over the last 15 years.

“I was in Patchogue when there were only five stores on Main Street. It was a ghost town,” Norwood said. “Now it’s thriving. But along with it thriving, landlords charge four or five times the rent. I had a lease in Patchogue that was very reasonable, but when I looked elsewhere for other locations, it was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.”

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The grand opening this weekend will feature a solar viewing on the Stony Brook Village lawn during the daytime, a meteor shower viewing during the evening and stargazing at night. Patrons will be allowed to use store equipment.

There will be speakers, live music and food vendors at the event, which is expected to be attended by several astronomy and science clubs, including the Custer Institute, and professors and students from Stony Brook University and Suffolk Community College.

“We’re giving away thousands of dollars of prizes, door prize style,” store manager Robert Becker said. “The prizes are from donations from manufacturers. It should be a good time.”

As niche of a store as Camera Concepts is (one of the 30 largest dealers for telescopes and high-end optics in the nation), several of its customers from Patchogue have traveled across Long Island to make a purchase at the new location, making relocation less of an issue than it would be for stores of other specializations.

Once a business whose overhead costs could be covered by camera film development alone, Camera Concepts invested heavily into telescope sales in the late 1990s, when it recognized the digital age would hinder its camera revenue.

“When digital cameras came out, it killed the old business models, since the big stores, the Wal-Marts and whatnot, were selling them,” Becker said. “We had to reinvent ourselves. Astronomy is 70 to 80 percent of our business now.”

Today, a majority of the store’s sales are done online. Instead of competing against other photo shops, once a staple in every Long Island village, the company is competing with retailers across the country and around the globe.

“If this was 10-12 years ago, we would have never moved, because we were so dependent on the local business,” Norwood said. “Our internet business has increased exponentially. A lot of our business is done online. It almost doesn’t matter where we are. I always tell people, I could do this out of my garage if I really wanted to”

Suffolk County seeks septic system reform as brown tide worsens in Great South Bay

Originally published at The Osprey

comprehensive plan, released on Monday morning by Suffolk County executives, is seeking to fund action against harmful algal blooms (HABs) such as brown tide. The phenomenon, which devastated shellfish populations this summer, is primarily caused by nitrogen pollution from antiquated septic systems.

“More than 360,000 homes in Suffolk County rely on outdated cesspools and septic systems that do not treat properly wastewater to remove nitrogen, more than the entire state of New Jersey,” Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said in a statement. An excess of nitrogen in the water allows for these algae to reproduce faster.

Brown tide levels reached a record 2.3 million cells per milliliter density in the Great South Bay this summer, according to September 2017 water quality report. Although non-toxic to humans, any amount over 50,000 cells per milliliter is harmful to shellfish, Dr. Christopher Gobler, a professor of Stony Brook University, said in the report.

Suffolk County implemented the Septic Improvement Program in July as an incentive for homeowners in need of septic tank replacement to buy an eco-friendly system with subsidized rates. To date, over 500 residents have applied to submit grant funding, which are worth up to $11,000.

“A conventional onsite septic system was never designed to remove nitrogen,” Reclaim Our Water, a group associated with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said.

The increase in government action to combat this issue follows a brutal summer for shellfish, who, as filter feeders, are especially vulnerable to dense, toxic algae.

Click image to view slideshow.

Hart Shellfish, an oyster hatchery in Sayville, reported total mortality over a period of two and a half months. Over 8 million potential oyster seed died, a financial loss of at least $400,000.

“I’ve been working here five years, and the brown tide is always a problem,” Elizabeth Savage, the hatchery manager, said. “But this year there was just no keeping them alive. It was just too long.”

Moderate brown tide lasting one or two weeks is normal in the area, Savage said, and can be withstood using purified saltwater from an upwelling system and the hatchery’s self-grown algae to keep the seed alive.

The artificial habitat could only suffice for so long. This year, the algal bloom’s duration proved dire.

“You need nature,” Savage said. “You can’t mimic nature. There’s certain bacteria and things [in the bay] that exist that we have to give to them.”

In past years, Savage would have to scrub the hatchery’s drums and buckets of wildlife growing on them — copepods, barnacles and skeleton shrimp — twice a week. This year, the brown tide made the bay essentially lifeless.

“I didn’t have to clean these once this year,” she said, pointing to a pair of drums.

Great Atlantic Shellfish Farm in East Islip, which farms adult-sized clams and oysters, also took a toll from the brown tide.

Eighty to 90 percent of clams died over the summer. Under normal conditions, clam mortality is essentially zero.

“Our animals have been able to endure the brown tide in the past,” Joshua Perry, a marine biologist and algae specialist, said. “But this year it was so dense, and it lasted such a long time. It was terrible.”

In the 1970s, the Great South Bay clam population accounted for more than half the clams eaten in the entire United States, according to The Nature Conservancy. Today, the population borders extinction in the area.

“Back in the day, before the clams and everything were overharvested, the bay was able to filter itself every day or every couple of days,” Perry said. “Now it takes 30 days.”

The federal government has not yet given support for the problem, but Sen. Chuck Schumer said last week that he is pushing for some of the $100 million from the proposed “Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act” to be allocated for Long Island.

“Suffolk County has the very first comprehensive strategy ever developed to begin addressing the challenges of harmful algal blooms at a time when the federal government is poised to provide funding for that purpose.” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Monday in a statement. “The timing of our work could not be better.”

Long Island educators seek to increase classroom dialogue surrounding racial issues

By Skyler Gilbert and Joshua Milien

Education experts want teachers in diverse Nassau County high schools to examine national current events and have classroom dialogue addressing the current social and racial climate.

In late August, walls of Syosset High School were graffitied with swastikas and gang tags, the latest in a string of similar incidents around the county in the last year. In an unrelated event in June, Oceanside seniors distributed T-shirts with racial slurs.

The uptick in these crimes has been caused by the Trump administration’s apathy and tolerance toward extreme right ideologies, Hofstra teaching professor Alan J. Singer said. But he sees the behavior as a learning opportunity for students.

“What we need to do is to engage kids in understanding,” Singer, an expert in social studies education, said. “I don’t see [the Syosset incident] as a major disciplinary act; I see this as an educational opportunity into the meaning of these acts and what the implications are for people.”

Last month, thousands of insurgent alt-right protesters marched at the University of Virginia campus, donning swastikas and confederate flags, in support of a statue of general Robert E. Lee. Members of the group chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” According to a recent Morning Consult poll, one in five Trump supporters have a favorable impression of white nationalism.

Singer pointed to New York City’s recent commission about what to do with area statues and place names as an opportunity for community involvement for 12th grade government students. Smithtown, for instance, is named after a 17th century slaveholder.

“This is a perfect opportunity to not just study, but engage the kids in civic activism,” Singer said. “It doesn’t take kids off the curriculum, it enhances the curriculum.”

One issue in public rhetoric has been the decrease in nuanced, sophisticated argument and a reliance on name-calling, Cheryl Greenberg, a history professor at Trinity College said. She believes the onus is on the educator to demonstrate these skills.

“We, as teachers, should model appropriate civic behavior,” Greenberg, who also chairs the West Hartford School District board, said. “Teachers need to model what using facts as evidence looks like, what making an argument looks like, what kinds of evidence persuasion requires, those sorts of things

Multiple educators from Nassau County acknowledged the importance of using present-day talking points in class dialogue, although they lacked specificity in the implementation.

“It’s incredibly important our students study current events,” Thomas Troisi, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Valley Stream South School District, said. “We are supposed to be preparing young people for their place in the world. If we don’t, we’re selling them short.”

Following the Syosset incident, whose suspect is still at large, the district’s superintendent, Dr. Thomas Rogers, invoked the national trend in his denunciation of the actions.

“One need look no further than the nightly news to see that our nation’s broader commitment to tolerance is being tested,” Rogers said in a statement to the school community. “But I am convinced that Syosset’s dedication to diversity is not superficial. It was not created overnight, and it will not be easily undone by the overnight actions of a few.”

Long Island has great racial and political diversity in many of its school districts, particularly in Nassau County, according to data from U.S. News and World Report. Valley Stream South, for instance, is nearly equally divided across four races: 29 percent Hispanic, 26 percent black, 24 percent white and 21 percent Asian.

“It’s important we teach students how to work together,” Troisi said. “We have a very diverse student population and that foundation starts here.”

In a student body with political diversity, which stems from racial, ethnic and economic diversity, Greenberg said, racial dialogue and empathy are even more important.

“I think if you have a diverse classroom, regardless of what kind of diversity you’re talking about, you must talk about it, because they’re going to talk about it,” Greenberg said. “They have to understand the issues. That’s what school does; it educates us about issues.”

Local Muslims experience double-standard in wake of recent London terrorist attack

Originally published at The Long Islander

Abdur-Rahman Partap’s coarse, black beard stands out in mostly white Long Island. To a point that, he says, he gets beeped at, and scorned on his drive to work. The niece of Habeeb Ahmed fears leaving her house in a hijab without her husband now. She has had her scarf pulled in public, and regularly receives dirty looks when wearing it. One woman, who wished to remain anonymous for her own safety, said that the day after the London attack, she got a phone call from an unknown number: “B***h, f**k you. Go back to your country,” the voice screamed from the other end of the line.

Hate crimes against the Islamic community in the United States are at their highest levels since 2001, according to FBI data. And, in the wake of London’s terrorist attack last week, the anti-Islamic rhetoric on Long Island has soared.

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“When people say ‘go back to your country,’ what do I have to say to these people?” Ahmed, the vice-president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, asked. “This is my country. My son was born and brought up here. What gives you the right to talk to us, legal residents here, like that?”

Ahmed has noticed a double-standard in the way Muslims are treated after high-profile jihadist attacks.

“[When white people commit crime,] a report comes back to say that a shooter is mentally disturbed,” Ahmed said. “No Muslim is ever mentally disturbed if they do these things.”

Every time a terrorist attack happens, his heart races in anticipation of what could happen to him, his family and his community if the perpetrator claims to be a Muslim.

“I feel that subconsciously local Muslims [wait] after extremist events to settle down,” Hashaam Nasheer, a resident of Manorville, said. “They try to avoid anything that would cause attention to themselves or to Muslims in general.”

Shirley Masjib has upped its security in recent years after heightened discrimination both locally and around the world.

Negativity is not all that local Muslims experience, though it is pervasive.

“I’ve been in the grocery store and had a woman come up to me and apologize on behalf of her country and what’s going on and how Islam and Muslims are portrayed,” Abdul-Lateef Poulos, the Imam of Shirley Masjid, said.

Poulos believes the source of discrimination is American’s zero-sum take on immigration: equal rights for others are equated to a lost rights for the majority.

“I think there is a feeling of losing of power, culturally speaking, in America where what was once a monolithic culture, at least the dominant one, is being lost,” he said.

Other factors that have contributed, Poulos said, including media-generated stereotypes. Some of these ideations are so strong that they can creep into the thoughts of Muslims themselves.

Last June, during the Islamic holy season of Ramadan, Nasheer walked down the streets of Manhattan before the crack of dawn, 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, wearing his white Thawb, a traditional Arabic robe. Through the early fog, he saw another man donning similar attire, with a black beard and a big bag.

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“For a second, and just for a split second, I was a bit afraid,” he recalled. “Then I came to my senses.”

The phrase “Islamic terrorism” is also problematic, Ahmed says, due to its improper use of being a descriptor and emblem of a much larger group of people.

“Just call me a terrorist, don’t call me an Islamic terrorist,” he said. “Why do you need to bring a population of 1.6 billion into the picture. That’s a major problem.”

Ahmed, who as a Muslim born in India, says he has always faced religious discrimination and reaches out to other marginalized groups to find solace. He is friends with the brother of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was killed in a 2008 hate crime. Every anniversary of his death, Ahmed visits Lucero’s grave.

“This is the least I can do to pay my respects to this man,” Ahmed said.

Poulos added that one way to break the tension toward the Islamic community is to abolish the “us-versus-them” binary perspective of many ethnically Western Americans.

“If a view the world as ‘us’ and ‘them’ and you define ‘us’ as being Americans or Christians,” he said. “And the other as being Muslims, than that’s how you’re going to see the world and you’re not going to give those courtesies that you would to your own to the other.”

Despite the visceral attacks to his own people, Ahmed uses the teachings of Muhammad to remain hopeful for the future.

“[God] is going to take care of everyone, whether you’re a Muslim or Christian or a Jew or whoever you are,” Ahmed said. “Because he has created all of us.”

Apple farmers fear early-season warm spells could doom another crop

Originally published at The Long Islander

An unseasonably warm could cause the New York State apple crop to reach an advanced stage of growth earlier than usual, resulting in perhaps a severe loss of crops.

Several orchard owners, including one on Long Island, have expressed concern that the temperatures — over 60-degrees Fahrenheit in some locations — will make trees lose their “winter hardiness” and become vulnerable to a late frost.

These fears come after a disappointing 2016 season in which over 90 percent of the state’s apple crop was decimated due to sudden cold spells late last spring.

“The blossoms will come early and then the real problem is that if we have a normal freeze in May we can lose crops,” Joy Crist of Crist Brothers Orchard in Walden, New York said. “The recent weather is really setting up for a crop loss that might come at a later time when the trees cannot protect themselves from the cold.”

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Trees are not yet bloomed but a continuation of mild temperatures could bring flowering sooner than preferred.

Once matured, a temperature below 28-degrees could annihilate an entire crop, multiple farmers said. A low yearly yield due to weather is not uncommon in fruit farms, but would be especially difficult given the disappointing 2016 season.

“Last year we had a bad crop due to a late frost,” Autumn Piazza, an orchardist at Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction, said. “We were supposed to get double the produce we had the year before, but since we’re falling into this pattern of warmer winter weather, we are at risk of losing a good chunk of our crops.”

Piazza recalled that the situation escalated to such a point last year that the orchard set up “mini bon fires” to prevent blossomed trees from freezing in the winter and spring. If the weather proceeds in a similar manner, such precautions could be taken again.

On Long Island, the concern is a bit mitigated due to a more moderate climate than the “fringe temperatures” of the cold upstate.

But Lou Amsler, the owner of Richter’s Orchard in Northport, one of only two apple farms in central Long Island, is cautiously optimistic about his crop this year, provided that temperature changes are slow and minimal.

“With this hot weather, it needs to cool off gradually,” Amsler explained. “If it cools gradually, the trees can safely go back into their dormant mode.”

Quick weather fluctuations can cause several adversities to apple growth. Flowers can be killed outright. Damaged seeds can cause pollination problems, which can lead to deformities, rigid skin or “frost rings” on the fruits.

Some traditional southern-grown pitted fruits are more susceptible to cold snaps than apples, the chief fruit grown in New York.

“Our apple trees are okay as of now,” Piazza said. “But our cherries, plums, pears, peaches and stone fruit are beginning to bud so we could potentially be losing them yet again.”

For apples, worries are still limited this early in the season, but orchard growers are keeping a keen eye on the weather forecast for the upcoming months.

State DEC may test contaminated Bethpage water this spring

Originally published at The Long Islander

Field testing of ground-water contamination at Bethpage’s “Grumman Plume” could begin this spring, Martin Brand, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said in an email.. The investigation comes after decades of neglect for pollution at the site.

The DEC began its probe of the situation, an expansive leak of toxins from now-closed Northrop Grumman and U.S. Navy manufacturing plants on Feb. 17. 

“It’s an engineering investigation,” Brand, Deputy Commissioner for Remediations and Materials Management for the DEC, said. “We’ll take a look at the extent of the groundwater plumes and develop plans to keep that plume from migrating further, from moving, from expanding, and impacting drinking water supply wells that are currently not impacted.”

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Audio Slideshow link: http://longislander.info/science-technology/state-dec-may-test-contaminated-bethpage-water-this-spring/

The problem was first identified in the 1940s, but has not been vigorously pursued until now. Many activists in the area are unhappy with the amount of time that it took to launch a comprehensive study, but are thankful that it is now underway.

“We’re a bit of both emotions,” Adrienne Esposito, head of the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, said. “Obviously, we’re glad the state is finally recognizing that there is a problem with the groundwater their citizens are drinking, but this should have come sooner.”

One of the leaked chemicals is trichloroethylene, which the Environmental Protection Agency has labeled as a carcinogen. Now the DEC has unveiled a comprehensive plan to start to take measures against stopping the plume from spreading.

“The plan is officially effective immediately,” Aphrodite Montalvo of the Long Island DEC said. “The DEC and Albany met throughout the week to figure out a proper plan and were able to get one done before announcing to the public on Friday.”

The plume is a two-mile-long by three-mile-wide area that has been slowly becoming larger, percolating its way into the Massapequa and Farmingdale water wells, according to the DEC in a press conference Friday afternoon.

“We’re going to spend 2017 doing the evaluation,” Brand said. “What those results will look like is a serious of options and alternatives that we can take, actually out there on the ground that would control that groundwater plume.”

Activists are still unhappy with the delay of the investigation, but are thrilled that action is finally taken.

“We are very happy that the DEC has decided to finally do something,” Esposito said. “They have agreed that the plume should be intercepted, the water contamination treated and then have a portion of the treated water recharged into the aquifer. This is exactly what we’ve been calling for, and what’s needed.”

Northrop Grumman was contacted, but declined to comment for the purposes of this story.

Brand indicated that although it was unlikely that any state-ordered maintenance would occur until 2018, the initial investigation will be completed this year.

“We expect to have preliminary results by the end of 2017,” Brand said. “The next step after that would be to go back to Navy and Grumman and say, ‘This is what we’ve come up with. Here is a plan for that groundwater plume. We want you to implement it and we want you to pay for it.’”

Private contractors of Northrop Grumman and the Navy are cleaning the site in various ways already, with the hope to prevent the plume from growing further in size.