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By Ambrose Clancy
Recommendations by Town-hired engineering consultants Lombardo Associates — and agreed to by Town Engineer Joe Finora — that a wastewater treatment plant to service Center public buildings be located underground at Klenawicus Airfield, has been met with concerns about regular flooding in the area.
Penny Kerr, a member of the Green Options Committee and an airfield neighbor, said at the Dec. 28 Town Board meeting that Town officials should seek an alternative site. The area already experiences flooding, Ms. Kerr said.
The idea of locating a system where thousands of gallons of water would be piped into the area, coupled with potential expansion of the treatment system in future years, needs to be re-examined, she said.
In the past, the Town has spent funds for emergency pumping in the area, contracting out services to relieve the flooding. The Town Board declared a state of emergency in April 2010 after a late March storm dumped 7 inches of rain on the Island. Water levels continued to rise many days after the March 29-30 rain event, as groundwater migrated to the low-lying pond areas in the vicinity of the airfield.
Suffolk County sent the commissioner of public works and the deputy county executive to see Shelter Island’s flooding problems for themselves, as the town continued to ponder how to get an estimated 49 million gallons of water out of the waterlogged neighborhood on Congdon Road.
The Board resolved to spend up to $130,000 to lower flooded ponds to normal levels, but the project was delayed for several weeks until the State Department of Environmental Conservation gave a green light for flood water to be discharged into the South Ferry Channel during outgoing tides.
In May 2010, the water levels in Lily, Willow and Deer Park ponds rose dramatically. Hydrologist Drew Bennett said that the pond levels represent the top of the Island’s groundwater aquifer.
The town put in place a plan to pipe and pump all three ponds. The Town Board then voted unanimously to proceed with an emergency relief plan. An auxiliary booster pump provided by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works allowed Terry Contracting to draw water from once-flooded Deer Park Lane and push it down miles of pipe to discharge at South Ferry.
Former town engineer John Cronin told the Reporter last week that “ponds like Lilly and Willow, which are towards the southern end of the airfield, and are probable kettleholes and freshwater wetland areas, were experiencing very high levels due to overall levels in the aquifer. There’s no question the pipe was a non-permanent installation.”
Ambrose Clancy has been the editor of the Shelter Island Reporter since 2012. He’s worked as a staff reporter for The North Shore Sun, the Southampton Press and was associate editor of the Riverhead News-Review and an editor at Long Island Business News.
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