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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    A Battle For Land Resolved

    When both sides drop the rope in a tug of war, the only thing left for them to do is glare at each other. In the case of Stony Brook University and the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, they glare for seven years.

    Last summer, both parties found themselves embroiled over the department’s attempts to use campus territory to help meet the future lawful standards of the amount of water pollutant in the local water supply. The plan would have involved the removal of trees and the possible movement of northern baseball and softball fields, according to Amy Provenzano, executive director of Stony Brook University’s Environmental Stewardship.

    “This project would have consumed a significant portion of our campus for other than academic needs,” Provenzano said.

    Over July and August of last year, the department first pitched several plans to the university in which the department would ultimately develop seven acres of the campus into recharge beds to retain sewage. Recharge beds are generally made of the same crushed gravel-type material that makes up pavement.

    Both the university and the department came to a compromise, which involved using an existing recharge basin to meet 2009 requirements and making determinations for off-campus locations to meet 2014 requirements as the school population continues to climb.

    “Every little bit helps,” said Ben Wright, chief engineer for the department, explaining that little water treatment is better than none.

    “We’re looking at a five-mile radius from the campus to sites and the campus is still included in that evaluation. Suppose there are no sites?then we have to come back to the campus and say, ‘What else can we do here?’ I’m still open-minded about where we’re going to end up, [but] the bottom line is we aren’t finished with our evaluations on the site.”

    Standing in opposition to Public Works’ initial ideas as well was Stony Brook’s Senate Environment Committee.

    “There were several main concerns,” said Gilbert Hanson, coordinating council for Campus Environment. “We’re going to destroy the forests, we’re going to destroy the tennis courts and some of the playing fields to put in recharge basins. When you have sewage left in the ground there, you have to be concerned [about] bacteria and viruses, and that could be a health hazard. They were forced to do it because the law said they had to, not because there’s any necessary science involved in it.”

    “The interim solution works for the parties involved,” said Arturo Keller, professor of fate and transport, watershed management, remediation and pollution prevention at the School of Environmental Science ‘ Management at the University of California in Santa Barbara. “This meets the goals of the Clean Water Act via the TMDL program. However, a long term solution will be needed.”

    That standard the department is trying to meet is the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which is commonly described as the amount of pollutant allowed in a given water body. This tends to involve drinking water, fishing areas and swimming locations, among other things, and all must be maintained in accordance with standards set by the overseeing state, territory or tribe.

    A TMDL is actually a specific calculation, adding together point sources, non-point sources, projected growth and a margin of safety. The equation is the TMDL.

    Though unconfirmed by the department, its Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program is speculated as further motivation for the county’s efforts to meet TMDL standards. It was initially approved as a 13-year program from 1987 to 2000, but was extended another 13 years in 1999. According to the information page of the program, the intent is to “fund implementation projects that will result in the protection and/or restoration of surface water quality throughout Suffolk County.”

    The university and the department’s efforts to meet water body standards are part of section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Stony Brook is currently meeting current TMDL requirements.

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