Village Board Cries Foul! To EPA Raw Sewage Claims

The EPA admitted it found the sewage in the sewer, not a storm drain, Northport Village Board members said on Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency's claim that was found in a Northport storm drain is dead wrong, members said at a meeting on Tuesday.

According to Trustee Damon McMullen, who accompanied the EPA on their tour through the Village's stormwater management system in June, the EPA made its discovery where it was mean to be--underneath a sewer manhole. 

The EPA has acknowledged this error, said Trustee Tom Kehoe, and the Village is working with them to make it public knowledge.

The claim was just one highlight of the 's July report wherein the Village was cited for having an "inadequate storm water management system" and violating numerous statutes under the Clean Water Act.

Tuesday's Village Board of Trustees meeting was the first time that the Village openly discussed the report's findings with the public and the public met them well-prepared. Things became heated as questions and accusations flew, with more than a few voices raised.

Among the loudest was Huntington resident Brian Whitehead, co-founder of the Save our Harbors Facebook group. Report in hand, Whitehead demanded to know if the Village would meet the deadlines set out in the EPA report or leave the taxpayers to shoulder a max $37,500 per day penalty.

“As of this point within a week or two, yes, I would say it’s definitely on target,” Village Administrator Gene Guido responded.

According to the EPA report, the Village has until the end of this month to develop, implement, and enforce a stormwater management plan. By Nov. 30 the Village must enforce a program to detect and address non-stormwater discharges, develop written procedures for identifying and locating illicit discharges, and develop written procedures for eliminating such discharges, and by Jan. 2012, it must perform a self-assessment of municipal operations.

Trustee Tom Kehoe pointed out the irony of the Village's situation, saying that Northport was ahead of the curve in Suffolk County when it installed a sewer system in the 1930s, and is now being blamed for the harbor's ills when cesspools and septic systems are more likely, but less quantifiable, culprits.

"The EPA and DEC edict that came down many years ago was part of the Long Island Sound Study which was a direct result of the lobster die-off and the hypoxia in the sound. But the Clean Water Act, which is what gave them their marching orders, never dealt with non-source point pollution, which is your guys on your side with your cesspools and septic tanks," Kehoe said in response to Whitehead's questioning.

"We think that there is enough research out there that will prove that, even if we remediate our little wastewater management plant, the preponderance of nitrogen coming into the harbor is going to be from other places."

Upgrades to the existing to come into compliance with the Long Island Sound Study benchmarks for nitrogen reduction will cost the Village between $7 and $9 million and should begin around June 2012. 

Mac Waters September 09, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Mr. Kehoe is mixing apples and oranges. While it's true that most of the nitrogen entering the harbor is likely from non-point sources such as cesspools and septic systems, the human fecal bacteria that has been documented in the harbor is most likely from raw sewage leaking from the aged and corroded system of pipes that transport it to the treatment plant. Soil, particular sandy soil that typifies most of LI, is an excellent filtration system...it quite effectively removes bacteria from septic leachate before it reaches area surface waters. The same is not true of nitrogen, since it is in a dissolved state. In 2009 the SCDHS produced a report that documented human fecal bacteria in the storm sewer system and concluded that it's likely from the village STP. That's why the Centerport Yacht Club beach was closed. Call Mike Jensen in the SCDHS Office of Ecology for a copy of the report......Mac Waters
Brian Whitehead September 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Why does it take an official order or violation to get Village officials to act? Shouldn't they be the first to protect our waters, rather than waiting until a gun is held to their head? They knew about the stormwater problems in 2008 and did nothing. They knew the sewage treatment plant wouldn't meet 2014 standards and haven't even finalized the plan to upgrade it. At the meeting they didn't even know they had to start construction on June 1, 2012. How can we have any confidence that they will meet these deadlines? If they don't, village taxpayers face fines of up to $37,500 per day for EACH violation. Over a dozen drains were cited in the EPA violations. Their delay strategy contrasts sharply with Huntington, which has already upgraded its stormwater drains. Huntington also upgraded their sewage treatment plant 5 years ahead of schedule, and did it largely with state funds that are much harder to come by now. Northport officials must raise their sense of urgency and fix these problems, rather than denying they exist and continuing to pollute our harbors every day.
Bonnie Bellow September 14, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Discharges and overflows of raw sewage into our waters pose serious environmental and public health risks. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an inspection of the Village of Northport’s storm sewer system in June 2011 and is conducting similar inspections in municipalities throughout the country. We found that the village did not have a storm water management plan or a program to detect illegal connections to its storm sewers. These are fundamental elements of the environmental permit that covers the village's storm sewer system. The village had clear violations of the law and was issued an EPA order to develop and enforce a plan and program to prevent raw sewage from entering local waters through its sewer system. At a recent Northport Village Board meeting, a village trustee took issue with a small aspect of EPA’s inspection report that has limited bearing on our findings. During the inspection, EPA identified nine locations where raw sewage could potentially be in village storm drains. At one, the inspector smelled sewage and noted it in the inspection report. The village informed EPA that this sewage line is no longer active, which has been duly acknowledged by EPA. The fact remains that the village does not have a proper storm sewer management plan or a program to detect and address sewage discharges. The village needs to correct these deficiencies to protect people’s health and water quality. Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator


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