Airfield nonstarter for many as septic site: Opposition centers on flooding, preserved land

City Engineer Joe Finora. (Source: photo courtesy)

Despite the best efforts of city engineer Joe Finora to lobby for the installation of a sewage treatment system at Klenawicus airfield, it appeared at Tuesday’s working session that few supported the proposal.

The session was held to answer questions about a proposed $3.8 million project to create a sewage system to reduce nitrates in the center’s drinking water, which has long been a serious problem affecting the area. Water consumption is high there, which includes City Hall, the Fire Station, the Library, and the Justice Building. Recommendations by the city’s engineering firm, Lombardo Associates — and approved by Mr. Finora — that the treatment plant serving these center buildings be built underground in the field have met with strong opposition.

Tuesday’s working session came just a day after a heated encounter between Supervisor Gerry Siller and Gordon Gooding, Chair of the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board, at Monday’s CPF meeting. Mr Gooding’s concern, repeated Tuesday, was the use of land acquired for conservation purposes as a wastewater treatment site.

On Monday, Mr. Gooding said he had evidence that city attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. approved use of the airfield, but Mr. Siller countered that only the city government could give the green light to a project. Mr. DeStefano had previously said he was only providing an opinion as to whether such use was legal at the airfield.

The dispute between Mr. Gooding and Mr. Siller escalated when Mr. Siller said Mr. Gooding was lying and Mr. Gooding told the supervisor, “You could take a lesson in listening.”

Cooler heads prevailed on Tuesday. But the dispute continued.

People who have sold their properties to ensure the land’s preservation shouldn’t find out now that they aren’t, Mr Gooding said. The potential expansion of the system to treat additional contaminants such as prescription drugs and plastic debris, and even expanding the facility to serve more areas of the island, could result in the sheltered site morphing into a large wastewater treatment system. Management plans for each protected site must be developed as land is acquired and should not be altered to allow for other uses, Mr Gooding said.

There have been questions about the location of the liquid wastewater treatment system at other sites including Fiske Field, Sachem’s Woods or a privately owned property near the library. None offered enough room for potential expansion, Mr. Finora said, and in most cases he failed to accommodate Suffolk County’s requirements for setbacks to separate wells from septic systems.

Councilwoman BJ Ianfolla asked if the recycling center had been considered.

There are too many government restrictions that would preclude such activity at this site, Mr Finora said.

Penny Kerr, member of the Green Options Committee and neighbor in the airfield area, citing flooding that damaged homes in the area 11 years ago and worried about directing more water to the area – 01 /09/location-of-the-wastewater-plant-interrogated-as-a-resident-tells-the-story-of-the-flooding-near-the-airfield/.

Ms Kerr also expressed concern about the impact of the runoff into the port of Coecles.

Mr Finora said solid waste treated in each of the centre’s buildings served by the system and liquid waste piped to the treatment system at the airfield would result in better water quality than what is currently entering the waterway.

The engineer was asked if that meant “clean water.”

“Cleanliness is a relative term,” said the engineer. High levels of nitrates are currently reaching Coecles harbor and the treatment system would reduce levels by around 90%.

Referring to flooding concerns, he said testing of the soil in the area suggests it would be able to absorb water.

There was also concern that Lombardo Associates was recommending the use of the company’s Nitrex system. Mr Finora said the company received no compensation if that was the treatment system used. It’s also one of the few systems approved for use in Suffolk County and compares best to other possible systems, he said.

Tuesday’s meeting is just a start in discussions on how to proceed, Mr Siller said, which will continue at a working session on Tuesday, January 25.

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