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West Creek pollution, the Real Culprits

Real Culprits…the rest of the story

By John Kramer

Valerie Leoniak’s letter to the Editor in this week’s Suffolk Times needs a response, here’s mine:

1. Our creeks are not ONLY polluted by wildlife, especially geese, but the SCDH (Suff Co Dept of Health) system that is used to close a creek to shellfishing is flawed because the fecal coliform SOURCE is not identified as being wildlife or human, therefore the information they provide is not actionable. If the coliform count exceeds x, the creek is closed to shellfishing.

When people see a creek closed and they see houses on the creek, they conclude there is a causal relationship. As a waterfront propertyowner, I want that relationship proven. When I see over 75 resident geese discharging over 75 pounds of manure a day DIRECTLY into my creek, without benefit of septic system and sand filtration, I see a causal relationship. You see, it’s a matter of perspective.

Here is an analogy: I take my car to a mechanic and he reports

“You have a dangerous condition with your car, and you should not drive it.”

When I ask what’s the problem, he responds,

“I am not telling you WHAT the problem is I am telling you there IS a problem and you should not use your car.”

This is what the SCHD is doing to our creeks.

2.  Ms Leoniak says,

“…maybe another ban should be enforced for all waterfront homes….”

The fact is that waterfront homes are held to a higher standard than their neighbors across the street as all gutters and leaders must empty into drywells and no drainage from the property can lead to the waterfront.  All new and repaired  retaining walls, bulkheads and the like must have non disturbance buffers that separate the lawn areas from the water so that fertilizer etc. is not near the water.  The Town Trustees enforce these rules.

3.  She ends by asking,

“Doesn’t everything run downhill?”

I’m so glad you asked because the answer I get to that from EVERY environmental expert I have asked is that the Northfork is a watershed. If you are South of Rt. 48, your property is draining to the Bay; if you are North of Rt. 48, your property is draining to the Sound.  The only difference between a waterfront and non waterfront property is TIME.  So if you are looking for toxins in the bay or sound and focusing on waterfront properties, you are missing the big problems. To enumerate some in no particular order of importance:  commercial properties,  agricultural properties, Town and State roads,  and residential properties.   They all drain into the sound or bay sooner or later.

My point is that perspective changes depending upon where you’re standing.  Waterfront owners I speak to at SoutholdVOICE gatherings feel they are more interested in the health of our waters than anyone because they are invested.  Non waterfront owners I speak to tell me it’s those rich people on the water that cause all the problems.  Remember the famous quote from the cartoon Pogo?

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Waterfront property owners are a driving force for pollution solutions, not the problem.

Bonus Video: Turn up the volume to hear the raucous geese in this snapshot of West Creek at sunset, November 2010. It’s less than a minute!

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