Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beaver Dam Creek Water Quality Group

Some action (and frustration) at meeting
Beaver Dam Creek group meets for third time about plume

Patchogue Advance, 11 December 2008


The third meeting of the Beaver Dam Creek Water Quality group, which took place Dec. 5 with the town to address the leachate plume emanating from the landfill, nailed down some specific actions. The next; meeting will take place on Jan. 23.

Fifty-one people with wells in the path of the plume have been identified, said Councilwoman Connie Kepert (4th District), who is chairing the group. "Most people have (Suffolk County Water Authority) water (But) we're giving it (free) to anyone in the path of the plume. SCWA is knocking on doors to see if they're interested and if they're interested, they'll be hooked up. That is our first responsibility, to protect public health.

"The next is to protect the environment. That's a more difficult prospect" Kepert added. "Surely this has taken place in other towns and I want (Brookhaven Town) to look at best management practices elsewhere. I've asked for a report on what could be done.

"I thought the most alarming thing is that there are 51 wells that are being impacted by the plume;" said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who attended the meeting. "They identified 21 southeast of the landfill in one section and then 30 south of Beaver Dam Road. The search for the monitoring wells was supposed to have begun. At the meeting we heard it would start mid-December. This is the cash cow for the town and they're afraid of any impact on that."

Kepelt said there were 27 monitoring wells at the perimeter. Robert Waters, Suffolk County Department of Health supervisor of Bureau of Marine Resources and principal author of the July Beaver Dam Creek report, said the town presented a plan via consultants. "They followed through my recommendations to locate some of the old wells to continue monitoring and come up with a work plan to characterize the extent of the plume." Waters said. "They're going to increase sampling in Beaver Dam Creek, survey and rehabilitate the existing monitoring wells, monitor them, then develop a work plan of results of the samplings. The end product will be a plume characterization report, that is, where is it, what depth is it at, that's what we asked for."

Waters said SCDH is going door to door to sample the private wells on 50 parcels. "We've sampled six and knocked on a few more doors," he said. "Some of those wells are on vacant land. Folks we can't get in touch with, we're sending letters. We're leaving notes in doors now (to contact us). SCDH agreed to do the lab samples for the wells."

Tom Williams, vice president of the Post-Morrow Foundation, said he was being hopeful. "They said there will be a full study and plan (to address the leachate plume) the end of March."

But the meeting wasn't without its frustrations.

"The reason we had the meeting on Dec. 5 is that the town was supposed to have gone out to look for the wells and have some data on those closest to the landfill and they did neither of these," said Brookhaven hamlet resident Marty Van Lith. "That fell off the charts." Van Lith also commented there seemed to be no real concern on the consultants' part. "They use words 'may intersect' and 'potential of leachate' and 'suggests.' There is a constant effort to divert the topic from leachate to other sources of contamination. The biggest disappointment is that they said, 'We've known about the plume and ammonia in surface water contamination in the 1990's. So we asked, 'Why didn't you do anything about it?' Their answer was they filed a report in the library."

"Shouldn't someone have been alerted?" Van Lith asked.

Van Lith said Post-Morrow and the local groups requested the town utilize an unbiased consultant from the Environmental Protection Agency. "They (the town) said, 'All of this stuff is reviewed by this agency and that agency.' Well, they weren't notifying anybody."

Brookhaven Landfill Contaminates Groundwater & Beaver Dam Creek

Health officials eye private Brookhaven hamlet wells
BY JENNIFER SMITH jennifer.smith@newsday.com
Newsday, Long Island, NY
6:24 PM EST, December 14, 2008

Suffolk health officials are knocking on doors in Brookhaven hamlet, telling residents with private wells to have them tested for traces of a plume that originated decades earlier at the town landfill.

First discovered in 1980, the problem is believed to stem from failed landfill liners that released leachate, water that percolates through landfilled trash, into local groundwater. The plume contains ammonia and volatile organic chemicals such as chlorobenzene, an ingredient in some pesticides, and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), used in dry cleaning, according to town monitoring reports.

Water samples from Beaver Dam Creek and an irrigation well at the Hamlet Organic Garden indicate the plume has traveled southeast and is moving toward the Carmans River. Brookhaven officials said they were taking steps to map the extent of the plume, which has not been done since the 1980s.

While the contamination doesn't appear to exceed drinking water standards, some fear the ammonia could harm brook trout and other marine life. "It's very toxic to fish," said Robert Waters, supervisor of the Suffolk health department's marine bureau.

No drinking water standards have been set for ammonia and no health effects have been found in humans exposed to typical environmental concentrations, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Some residents were taken aback by the news of the contamination, made public this summer in a county report on water quality in Beaver Dam Creek. Others who already knew about the plume said more should have been done to track its progress.

"It is something that was known many years, and there was a study that pointed out where it was going to go," said Thomas Williams, vice president of the Post-Morrow Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving the character of Brookhaven hamlet. The county did the water quality study at the group's behest.

The portions of the landfill where the leaks were thought to originate were capped in the 1990s to prevent more water getting in. Contamination concentrations closest to the source have since declined, town officials said.

"Eventually the leak will be cut off completely," said Ed Hubbard, Brookhaven's commissioner of waste management. "It's a 260-foot waste mass, so it's going to take some time to drain out."

The state Department of Environmental Conservation did not require further remediation because the plume not classified as hazardous waste, DEC spokesman Bill Fonda said.

The town has monitored groundwater at the landfill for years and also tested Beaver Dam Creek for traces of the contamination. Public water was extended to neighborhoods below the landfill in the late 1980s, but some property owners may not have chosen to connect at that time.

Manager Sean Pilger had both wells at the organic garden, known as the Hog Farm, tested for a wider range of contaminants than usual this year after learning of the plume's progress. Chemicals matching those in the landfill plume showed up in the farm's north well, although levels were still within drinking water standards. Pilger said the farm is drilling a deeper well to bypass the contamination.

Officials are investigating 51 properties in the potential path of the plume that may still use well water. About one-third have already been determined to be on public water and test results from six wells are pending.

The DEC will conduct a survey of Beaver Dam Creek next year to determine whether the plume has affected brook trout or other marine life.

Brookhaven Landfill Leachate Contaminates Beaver Dam Creek

Brookhaven hamlet residents Marty Van Lith and Tom Williams, members of the Beaver Dam Creek Water Quality Working Group, are hoping for plume remediation. ADV/Leuzzi

Some hopeful solutions
More steps taken regarding Beaver Dam Creek plume
Long Island Advance, Patchogue, NY. 4 December 2008, p. 5


It is ironic that this almost ethereal area that is Brookhaven hamlet is wrestling with an unsavory plume that has made its way to the local waters. For one thing, it has its own non-profit preservation organization, the Post- Morrow Foundation Inc. that earnestly purchases open space to help maintain the rural character of the neighborhood. Many of its residents are at the very least conservationists as well as members of such environmental organizations as the Open Space Council. Dennis Puleston, the beloved naturalist, author, founding member of the Environmental Defense Fund which would become the EPA and unofficial guardian of the osprey, whose work helped save their population, came to live here from England after World War II until he died in 2001. His family is still anchored to the neighborhood.

"We never asked for this," said resident Tom Williams, treasurer and vice president of Post-Morrow Foundation Inc. looking at the Beaver Dam Creek, which runs past the foundation's headquarters.

No one did.

Williams is perplexed and so are others of what has transpired. What started as a restoration effort, to monitor the wildlife that had returned to Beaver Dam Creek, resulted in a July 2008 Suffolk County Health Department report stating that ammonia levels for at least two of the samples taken on the creek in 2000 were 500 times greater than the acceptable limit from a leachate plume that emanated from Brookhaven's town landfill. A 2001 draft environmental impact statement prepared for a proposed expansion of Brookhaven's Sanitary Landfill cited the. ammonia samplings were well within the New York State DEC acceptable limits. The math mistake, made via confusion over parameter units, went undetected right through a 2002 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the landfill expansion. SCDHS found the error during research for its study, which began in 2002. The report was released the end of July this year.

This Friday, Dec. 5, the Beaver Dam Creek Water Quality group, including local, state, town and environmental officials, will come together for its third meeting with the town in attempts to work out a solution that will help their water body and ensure the health of their residents. The first meeting gathered on Sept. 26; the second was Oct. 24.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert (4th District) commented that Brookhaven Director of Environmental Protection John Turner had determined there was a possibility of 21 homes with wells along the plume's path that could he affected. "It could be less but we think there is a maximum (number) that should be hooked up," she said. "There may be some homeowners that don't want to be. The town will offer them hookups to SCWA water. It will be free."

Kepert said additional funding had been identified in waste management to address the situation. "We're going to install additional wells to determine the current extent of the plume and determine the impact to Beaver Dam Creek," she said. "We are sinking additional (monitoring) wells and redeveloping existing wells. Some have collapsed and we're dedicating funding for that. We are also looking into pumping remediation," she said.

That was good news to Williams and Marty Van Lith, who have been carrying the gauntlet for their local group along with Mary Jane Cullen and Claire Goad.

"It was kind of the third option after the public safety factor and the monitoring wells," Williams said. "I hope they announce that Friday."
Van Lith said remediation had been on their minds. "There was no indication of that the last time we met," he said. "This is what we wanted all along. That's what we were going to ask for. Hopefully, they'll propose it first. One of the things we're also going to ask for is an unbiased consultant (to work with us with the town)."

But Ed Hubbard, commissioner of Wastewater Management, disputed in an e-mail what Kepert said about pumping remediation.
"There will be no pumping of the plume," he said. "It's simply not feasible to do so and unwarranted at this point. Keep in mind this is not something that just occurred. This was a plume that began almost 30 years ago and has been addressed by the NYS-DEC and the town of Brookhaven. The approved remediation effort by the NYSDEC was to cap the landfill and in doing so it would cut off infiltration of rain into the landfill mass and eventually cut off the now out of the landfill. The key word is eventually. The waste mass is 260 feet high and continues to produce methane gas (which is used to rum turbines to produce electricity), which is an indicator that there is still moisture within the mass and therefore still some small amount of leachate being produced. To completely shut down the internal system will take years, but it will occur, and results from groundwater testing, including the SCDHS report, indicate that the situation is getting better NOT worse.

"The town continues to collect the leachate from the older cells and we have seen decreases in the amount since the capping. Results of groundwater testing just down gradient of the landfill show declining concentrations of leachate, an indication that the capping is effective in reducing the plume and will ultimately cut it off completely. Similar results are seen at Beaver Dam Creek in our surface water sampling as well as in the short sampling survey that SCDHS did for their report. Brookhaven Town has enacted a plan to further delineate the plume, but that will take about a year before we have the data. In the meantime, John Turner is identifying homes that are within the plume boundaries and are still on well water. These homes will be offered the option to get on public water."

Past remediation reported


On Jan. 13, 1983, The Long Island Advance reported on Brookhaven landfill plume solutions. An article written by Jo Ann McGrath stated that the plume had been traveling from the landfill through the groundwater system since 1977. Back then its location was reported as approximately 1,500 feet southeast of the site and about 800 feet from the house and well of a resident near Old Town Road.

Capping of the existing area, which was accomplished, was to be accompanied by stepped-up pumping of leachate, an operation that had been in effect since June 1982. The pumping reduced the seven-foot level of leachate by only a few inches, the article said, even with trucking to Bergen Point of 120,000 gallons weekly.

The volume was said to be reduced further, as the town had agreed that the Yaphank county facilities near the landfill, facilities that contained an undertilized sewage treatment plant, would be used to receive a similar quantity of leachate pumpings, as was transported to Bergen Point.
At the time, a member of the Brookhaven hamlet Liaison Committee, which was working with the town to address the leachate plume, also expressed relief that the town was assuring them public water would be made available.

More on Beaver Dam Creek here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

George Washing Lodge Preservation

A graceful parcel up for preservation
Marist property in Brookhaven hamlet targeted for planning steps
Long Island Advance, December 4, 1008, p. 11

The Marist Brothers of the Schools Inc. property on South Country Road in Brookhaven has been unanimously approved by the county for acquisition planning stages. The town and Post-Morrow Foundation has committed funds for its purchase.


The bucolic swath of land owned by the Marist Brothers of the Schools Inc. on South Country Road in Brookhaven hamlet, up for sale, has been targeted for preservation by the town, county and the Post-Morrow Foundation, The Long Island Advance has learned.

Originally 35 acres, the parcel was home to a man named George Washington who built his house around 1865 and had a menagerie of animals, said Tom Williams, vice president of the Post-Morrow Foundation Inc.

Over the years, Williams said, the property dwindled down to 9.5 acres and the house at one time was used as the Bay Community School. The Marist Brothers, a Catholic teaching order dedicated to the Christian education of children and young people, bought it in the 1950s.

"Right now it houses some retired teachers from Marist College," Williams said. "But they're thinking it's too much to maintain."

Post-Morrow approached county Legislator Kate Browning as well as the town to purchase the property about six months ago, Browning said. "Isabella Rossellini contacted us too," Browning said. "It's in the Beaver Dam Creek watershed and I want to pre- serve it. We don't need to pollute it with more cesspools." The acquisition proposal, introduced by Browning, was passed unanimously by the legislation Tuesday. "Now we'll go through the process of appraising the property and speaking ,with the owner about acquisition," said Browning's spokesperson Joshua Slaughter.

"We passed the resolution to purchase it Nov. 13," said Councilwoman Connie Kepert (4th District).

"The town is kicking in 40 percent. One of the nice things is that it's close to other preserved parcels, the Lohmann farm and the Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve."

The county and town will purchase 7.6 acres. "Post- Morrow will purchase the remaining two acres with the house on it," Slaughter explained. "They'll handle the demolition. The more environmentally sensitive land is what the county and the town are purchasing. It's categorized as passive park land with a public use where hopefully there will be nature trails in the future and people can walk and hike on it."

Williams said Post-Morrow would contribute 10 percent to the purchase of the property.

Besides its proximity to Beaver Dam Creek, Williams said there were specimen trees on the property and it was considered a wildlife habitat as well. "We did a small study and found sapsuckers and other birds," Williams explained. "It's a place where wildlife is abundant and it's adjacent to the Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve. Those were our major reasons. And we feel it's a significant piece in the hamlet."

A history of the Marist property, known as the Washington Lodge, and George Washington may be found at here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Uncovering Lively Times, then and now

Bellport High School History Club Restores Cemetery.

Long Island Advance, Thursday, December 11, 2008 Page 5


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Documentary filmed

The Puleston Farm, located in Brookhaven hamlet was used as the site for filming a PBS documentary on Joan Baez and the Cambodian refuges.

Article from the Long Island Advance, Thursday, December 11, 2008, p. 5
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fire Place History Club news

Dear All,

Hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving as we look forward to the upcoming holiday  season. 

We hope that you were able to attend some of our Fire Place History Club events during the  past year. These included a presentation on the human and cultural history of Carmans River, the restoration and rededication ceremony of the Rose Cemetery, a bike tour of our historic cemeteries, and, just this month, John Deitz's "Brookhaven Hamlet Cultural History 101." We plan to do several new presentations in the upcoming year, and I will send you announcements beforehand. 

The FPHC board has also been spending much of its time this year mowing, cleaning and maintaining the eight larger historic cemeteries  – all work that Brookhaven Town is required by NYS law to do, but refuses to. Recently, we received some help from the Bellport High School History Club, and you can see pictures at this link:

We see the cemeteries as a vital component of our historical and cultural heritage, and we have submitted a grant proposal for $11,000 to repair and restore them. However, all of this money and work will be in vain if Brookhaven Town doesn't commit to a long-term maintenance program. Much of the deterioration to these cemeteries was caused because of the Town's failure to maintain them. We have been pleading with the Town to do this minimal maintenance for many years to no avail. Now we are asking for your help: Please,  send either an e-mail or letter, sample below, to our Town Council members asking them to order the Town Parks Department to do their mandated job by mowing the lawns in our Brookhaven Hamlet historic cemeteries a few times a year and doing the minimal maintenance to ensure their conservation.

Sample letter or e-mail:

Dear Councilman/Councilwoman ________,

I am writing to urge you to preserve Brookhaven Hamlet’s unique history by ordering your Parks Department to do its job and maintain our historic cemeteries, which are deteriorating rapidly since the Town stopped maintaining them. If the 75 people employed by the Parks Department say that they don’t have enough personnel to do this, then the work should be done contractually.  


Our Town representatives can be contacted with the e-mail addresses below. Thank you in advance for your help.  


Brian Foley <bfoley@BROOKHAVEN.ORG>
Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld <fiore-rosenfeld@BROOKHAVEN.ORG>
Kathleen Walsh <kwalsh@BROOKHAVEN.ORG>

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fire Place History Club Urges Cemetery Maintenance

The following letter was sent on behalf of the Fire Place History Club on October 10, 2008.  As of  December 1, 2008, no response has been received.  This is not surprising, given the general nonresponsiveness of Brookhaven Town government, regardless of party, to citizen inquiries.  I can assure you that if we represented real estate interests, we would have not have been ignored!

Supervisor Brian X. Foley
Town of
One Independence Hill
Farmingville, New York 11738

October 10, 2008 

Dear Supervisor Foley, Members of the Council, 

The duty of the Town, pursuant to Article 17, § 291 of the Town Law of the State of New York, is to maintain abandoned cemeteries or burial grounds. 

The members of the Fire Place History Club have, for many years, been working to maintain historic cemeteries in Brookhaven and South Haven Hamlets, Town of Brookhaven, as a vital component of our historical and cultural heritage. We recently started a restoration program for these cemeteries, some of which have suffered significant deterioration. The community has been very supportive, both financially and in terms of volunteer work. It is our concern that, without appropriate long-term and consistent Town maintenance, they will again deteriorate after this work is completed. In perhaps another generation they will be lost forever. 

As stated above, the Town of Brookhaven is legally obligated to maintain these cemeteries. We have met several times with officers and representatives of the Town expressing our concerns and reiterating the Town’s duty. As far as we have been able to determine, all the cemeteries and burial grounds of interest are under Town ownership. We have provided the Town Parks department with all the necessary information as to their locations and their needs, and have repeatedly asked that they receive the minimal maintenance required.

We know that the Town has many obligations, but we ask that the Town Board pass a resolution requiring the Parks Department to immediately implement a long-term maintenance program for the cemeteries in accordance with NYS Town Law, Article 17, § 291.

Please provide us with a copy of the plan or proposal for the long-term maintenance and safe-keeping of Town cemeteries, by January 1, 2009. 

The need is urgent due to ongoing deterioration. Without corrective action, our commitment to those who rest in these burying grounds will impel us to file an Article 78 action so that this important cultural and historic heritage of our Town is not forever lost.


Martin Van Lith
18 River Lane
Brookhaven, NY 11719

John Deitz
7 Locust Lane
Brookhaven, NY 11719

Ron Kinsella
Meadow Lane
Brookhaven, NY 11719

Eben Ludlow
1 Chapel Ave
Brookhaven, NY 11719

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfel
Councilwoman Jane Bonner
Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh
Councilwoman Connie Kepert
Councilman Timothy P. Mazzei
Councilman Keith Romaine
Edward Morris, Parks Dept
Karen M. Wilutis, Town Attny.