Friends of Havens Beach Plead For Clean-Up of Dredge Spoils

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A summer scene at Havens Beach. Michael Heller photo

Three speakers from Friends of Havens Beach took pains to thank the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and the Highway Department for their work taking care of the village’s only public bathing facility even as they gently prodded the board at its monthly meeting Tuesday to deal with continuing problems there including black sediment, large rocks, and detritus including burned wood and corroded iron on the beach.

Also at the meeting, the Village Board unveiled plans to require so-called “innovative, alternative” or I/A septic systems that actively reduce nitrogen effluent for all new houses and certain renovations and upgrades to existing houses. Without discussion, the board set a public hearing on the proposal for its January 8 meeting.

In addition, the board set a public hearing for January 8 on amendments to the waterways section of the Village Code made in connection with the Harbor Committee’s recent completion of revisions and updates to its harbor chart.

Speaking to the board about Havens Beach, Carol Williams said the group’s goal is ensuring that “Havens remains clean, beautiful and accessible.”

“We appreciate the work of the village and especially the Highway Department in keeping the beach in good shape,” she said. “Our feeling, though, is that a beach is a living, changing system that needs to be managed as such. It’s a complex organism. I don’t think anyone of us, not the board, not the Friends of Havens Beach, quite know what maintaining such a complex organism entails but we do feel that we need to find out. So we’re here tonight to begin a process — we hope we’re beginning a process with all of you — to really discover what we need to do in order to maintain the beach” now and into the future.

Jean Held of the Friends, among other items, showed two jars containing unidentified black gunk from the beach and a picture-board documenting the clean-up success since dredge spoil from the west side of Long Wharf was piped onto the beach last fall.

She thanked the board for its efforts to remove rocks from the beach left over from the dredging and for “deepening” a dreen to stop water from collecting in greenish pools against the beach. But conditions there “are still a little bit disturbing,” she said.

Terry Sullivan of the Friends said the “up-island contractor” who conducted last year’s dredging operation should correct continuing problems, which he said included rocks, brick and wood detritus that “keeps heaving up every time we have a rain.”

When he said he’d been unable to find any evidence in village files that the DEC had inspected the beach to make sure the contractor had complied with the 2017 dredging permit, Mayor Sandra Schroeder told him it had been a county project so he should “go to the county for that. That’s not ours.”

Like the other speakers, Mr. Sullivan invited board members to walk the beach with the group “to see,” as he put it, “if you would consider lying down on the beach.” He said, “there is not a blanket thick enough,” and added that the beach used to contain fine, light brown sand, which is now evident only farther east, toward Little Northwest Creek.

Even though Havens Beach was listed as a “discussion item” on the meeting agenda, board members did not respond to the speakers, except for the mayor’s comment to Mr. Sullivan.

Neither did any board members discuss the details after their unanimous vote to authorize Mayor Schroeder to sign a contract with P.W. Grosser Consulting Services for what the agenda listed as a “Havens Beach Drainage Facility Improvements & Maintenance Project.” She did remind the Friends of Havens Beach, whom she said she calls the “Beach Buddies, and it’s not a fresh thing,” that she had discussed the project with them when they had met previously.

Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley explained in a phone interview on Wednesday that the project includes four elements: enlarging the outfall pipe at the end of the drainage ditch that bisects that Havens Beach property; replacing the lid on the AbTech “bio-sponge” structure installed into the ditch in 2013, which is currently so heavy the village needs to use “the biggest payloader in town” to lift it and service the filter; cleaning up a 75-foot-wide area of the beach property that was not included in the 2013 Havens Beach clean-up project; and removing invasive phragmites “cattails” that were not completely cleared out during the 2013 project.

Proposed Septic Requirement

The proposed local law requiring active nitrogen-reducing septic systems is an amendment to Chapter 92 of the code. It notes that “nitrogen pollution from conventional on-site sanitary systems is excessive, widespread and increasingly problematic and adversely affects ecological health and drinking water …”

Like similar rules already in place in East Hampton and Southampton towns, the legislation would require “innovative and alternative on-site sanitary systems” for all new residential construction; any septic system required to be upgraded by the county’s Department of Health Services; and renovations that result in an increase of 25 percent or more in the floor area of a building; and any upgrades required by the village’s Harbor Committee.

In other news, the Village Board agreed to seek bids for an “enhanced audio/video system” for the Village Hall meeting room that Trustee Aiden Corish said will be able to “maintain decent audio quality throughout the room,” even in summer, when the air condition system drowns out speakers, especially to audience members in the back of the room.

The board’s request for proposals will call for two video screens to be mounted on the interior wall to the right of the dais from the audience’s perspective, one tilted toward the board and one tilted toward the audience, according to Trustee Corish. He said speakers will be able to connect their computers to the system when they make presentations. Also, new microphones will be provided for speakers and board members at the dais.

The board tabled Lee Oldak’s application for permission to once again store rowing shells for the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club at the Cove Park ramp in Redwood. Village Attorney David J. Gilmartin Jr. cautioned the board that it needed to seek bids from all potential users if the club’s activities will constitute an “exclusive use.”

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Peter Boody is news editor of The Sag Harbor Express. Previously he was the editor of the Southampton Press for many years and also edited several other papers, including the Shelter Island Reporter and the East Hampton Press, of which he was founding editor. He was a regular correspondent for the New York Times Long Island section and wrote the novel “Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me.”