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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Southampton sued for water violations

Students protest the closing of SUNy Southampton in September 2011. Now, another controversy surrounds the campus, which is being sued by environmental groups for violating three different federal laws. (ERIKA KARP / THE STATESMAN)
Students protest the closing of SUNy Southampton in September 2011. Now, another controversy surrounds the campus, which is being sued by environmental groups for violating three different federal laws. (ERIKA KARP / THE STATESMAN)

Two environmental groups—the Peconic Baykeeper and the Long Island Soundkeeper—are suing SUNY Stony Brook Southampton for discharging polluted wastewater into local waterways.

Peconic Baykeeper President Kevin McAllister claims there were permit violations regarding the cesspool and septic systems at Southampton and five state parks in Suffolk County.

Southampton and the five state parks—Robert Moses, Heckscher, Belmont Lake, Sunken Meadow and Wildwood—have violated three federal environmental laws including the Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water and Resource Conservation and Recovery Acts.

On Nov. 8 and 11, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southampton and the five state parks were sued by the Peconic Baykeeper and The Long Island Soundkeeper.

Lauren Sheprow, director of Media Relations at Stony Brook University, did not comment by the time of publication. However, according to the Times Beacon Record, Sheprow said the university could not comment on the issue.

Both the state parks and Southampton operate large capacity septic systems, according to McAllister. The wastewater, which enters rivers and estuaries via groundwater, contains excess nitrogen that triggers toxic algal blooms, like red and brown tides.

Red tides, a term for harmful algal bloom, release biotoxins that are taken up by shellfish during filter feeding, making them inedible. It can also kill both shellfish and finned fish based upon nitrogen levels in the water.

“Even if it’s not killing the shell fish the levels can be high enough where they pose public health risks,” McAllister said. “For instance the state of New York last year, when either a red tide or rust tide appeared in Shinnecock Bay, issued a closure where people were not allowed to harvest recreationally or commercially for bivalves.”

According to McAllister, various plants in Riverhead have disclosed 1200 water violations that extended over “year periods” that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, was not aware of.

He expanded upon this saying that the DEC had the reports that disclosed the violations, but they never took enforcement action.

“We are seeing a number of areas in [Suffolk County] where drinking water is no longer safe to drink because the levels of nitrogen have exceeded the 10 mL threshold,” McAllister said.

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