East Hampton Town Announces Plan to Combat Dust

Dust being kicked up in the field behind Main Street in Amagansett. Michael Heller photo

East Hampton Town officials announced a plan this week to combat recent dust “storms” in Amagansett, where high winds resulted in dust particulates blanketing parts of Amagansett, prompting an outcry for aid from residents and business owners alike.

According to a press release issued by town officials late Tuesday afternoon, last week Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc met with Barry Bistrian, the owner of the farm field just north of the municipal parking lot in downtown Amagansett, and Peter Dankowski, who leases and farms the land, along with Mr. Bistrian’s sons. They were joined by Alex Balsam, a farmer and the head of the town’s agricultural advisory committee and Corey Humphrey, the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District district manager in an effort to develop a plan to deal with the dust in Amagansett, caused by a late growing crop cover leaving the fields largely bare during the cold, and often windy, winter months.

Immediately, according to the Supervisor’s office, it was agreed the field would be covered with straw to hold the soil in place — that straw was being laid down on Tuesday. Snow fencing will also be installed to keep the straw in place.

According to the Supervisor’s office, Mr. Bistrian has also agreed to soil testing by the town to provide concerned residents with information about its composition. “He said he is confident thatresultswouldnot showelevatedlevelsofarsenic,duetothefactthatthefieldwasusedfordairypasturageuntilthe 1960s, which was after local farmers had discontinued use of that chemical,” states the Supervisor’s office in the press release. Testing took place Tuesday morning, and officials say the hope it is completed in about one week.

The Supervisor’s office has also contacted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Air Resources in response to concerns about air quality during dust events. According to the town’s press release, the DEC has stated the steps being taken by the town are the same steps the state would follow.

“On a longer-range basis, the town board will discuss the possible adoption of policies or regulations that could outline the community’s expectation that farmers plant a winter cover crop and the town’s response to airborne dust problems,” reads the supervisor’s press release.

Mr. Dankowski did plant a winter cover crop after the potato harvest, but due to heavy rains and cold in the fall, the crop failed to take. The harvest of potatoes left the ground with little to hold the soil in place. Both Mr. Bistrian and Mr. Dankowski have committed to no longer planting potatoes in the fields adjacent to downtown Amagansett.