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Mar 3, 2015 4:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Environmentalists Say East Quogue Development Would Further Damage Water Supplies, Waterways

Mar 4, 2015 1:06 PM

Environmental advocacy groups across the East End are urging the Southampton Town Board to take into account the potentially damaging impact that a golf course and 118-home development would have on groundwater, as well as already-impaired Weesuck Creek and western Shinnecock Bay, in the hamlet of East Quogue.

And representatives of those groups, which include the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and the Group for the East End, revealed during a recent interview that they are considering taking legal action against the Town Board if it ultimately approves the mixed-use planned development district, or MPDD, known as The Hills at Southampton.

“This PDD thing is getting out of control,” Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said recently, explaining that he and other environmental leaders are frustrated with the Town Board for allowing such dense applications to be considered at length.

Rather than see the property developed, Mr. Amper, Mr. DeLuca and others are insisting that the town renew fizzled efforts to purchase the property—which is actually several lots, several of which are now owned by the applicant, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company—and preserve it. They also note that the project, if approved, could potentially threaten the hamlet’s only pristine drinking water well field, which sits to the east of the proposed development.

“This is our number-one focus when it comes to the Pine Barrens,” Mr. Amper continued, explaining that The Hills property, located between Lewis and Spinney roads in East Quogue and accounting for nearly 500 acres combined, is the largest remaining tract of Pine Barrens on the East End that is still in private hands.

Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, agreed, adding that the project, which is not permitted under current zoning, remains on his organization’s “radar” in terms of potential litigation.

The Hills, which proposes 108 individual homes, a clubhouse with 10 condominiums and an 18-hole golf course on 168 acres between Lewis and Spinney roads in East Quogue, could do a significant amount of damage to water quality and, in the long run, further contaminate Weesuck Creek and Shinnecock Bay, according to local environmental experts. The land is also situated within a state-designated Special Groundwater Protection area, which is why environmentalists and scientists like Dr. Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and an East Quogue resident, rate the property as the region’s top target for preservation.

Dr. Gobler said the Town Board needs to closely examine four major factors, namely, the risk to drinking water supplies, coastal flooding, human health and the continued degradation of Shinnecock Bay, as part of its review. If they properly vet and examine those issues, he added, board members would immediately kick the application back to the developers.

Dr. Gobler gathered information from the Suffolk County Water Authority in addition to conducting his own studies on the water quality of Weesuck Creek and the surrounding wetlands—which, he noted, protected a large portion of the hamlet during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when floodwaters still made their way north past Main Street in East Quogue. He said the introduction of more nitrogen, an unavoidable byproduct that comes with new residential and golf course developments, will decimate whatever remaining natural wetlands buffers still exist along the Weesuck Creek corridor, eventually exposing most of the hamlet to additional flooding during extreme high tides and severe storms.

“We’re not doing things to protect ourselves,” said Andrea Spilka, president of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition. “The dangers of this development far outweigh any benefits.”

Additionally, Dr. Gobler described Weesuck Creek as the “epicenter” for toxins that are responsible for the brown and red tides that have decimated shellfish populations, especially those in western Shinnecock Bay, in recent years. He noted that the highest levels of a toxin given off by red algae, known as Alexandrium, can be found in the waterway and it is blamed for causing a condition known as paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP. According to research conducted by the Suffolk County Water Authority and shared by Dr. Gobler, there are approximately five cells of Alexandrium in every liter of water in Weesuck Creek, or more than five times the levels detected in nearby Tiana Bay.

He noted that another study conducted by the same county agency revealed that the creek’s elevated levels of saxitoxin—another PSP produced by Alexandrium—were elevated enough to kill mice that drank water from it. That study was completed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Again, according to Dr. Gobler, the spikes in toxicity levels in the waterway can be traced back to an ongoing deluge of nitrogen in groundwater to the north. He also points that much of the nitrogen pollution that doesn’t reach the bays can still turn up in drinking water, posing a threat to people.

Mr. DeLuca and Dr. Gobler pointed out that the Suffolk County standard for drinking water is currently 10 milligrams per liter of nitrogen, a level that, they say, is far too high when it comes to sustaining marine life. They argue that as little as 2 milligrams per liter is enough to throw off the balance of most marine species, even though the level falls within the county’s guidelines for drinking water.

Mr. DeLuca pointed to a Cornell University Center for Environmental Research study conducted in the 1980s that suggested five-acre zoning in this area in order to keep the nitrogen levels at around 2 milligrams per liter of wastewater. Currently, the land in question is designated at five-acre zoning. The nitrogen levels in Weesuck Creek currently measure at around 3.5 milligrams per liter, according to the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Dr. Gobler notes that the residents of East Quogue don’t have to look beyond their own faucets to realize the problem that comes with overdevelopment. The water pumped from the Suffolk County Water Authority well field off Spinney Road, which is located in the middle of the proposed development and south of an established farm, already comes in at close to 8 milligrams per liter in terms of nitrogen contamination. That water is mixed with the proceeds from a second well field, this one located to the east and near Malloy Drive, that averages only 1 milligram of nitrogen per liter of water—a level that makes it near pristine in terms of water quality, according to Dr. Gobler. Currently, the water from both fields is mixed to lower nitrogen levels before it is pumped to homes and businesses in the hamlet.

The MPDD, environmentalists argue, will endanger the near pristine well and could pump up the nitrogen levels between the two wells to above 10 milligrams, meaning the water would no longer be safe to drink.

And that is reason enough for the town to reject the application, the environmentalists argue.

“PDD legislation is supposed to protect our resources,” Mr. DeLuca said, noting that he does not understand why the Town Board is continuing to entertain the application. “If the Town Board has a particular concern about the impacts of this project, they have the ability through [the State Environmental Quality Review Act] to provide mitigation to address the impact without making a trade.”

The trade he was alluding to is the applicant’s offer to install enhanced wastewater treatment facilities wherever possible, thereby reducing the nitrogen footprint of the development that is to be clustered on the property. Still, the environmentalists argue that such a proposal should not be viewed as a public benefit—as was originally touted by Discovery Land representatives—because any development will ultimately result in more nitrogen pollution.

“Once you get into that kind of trading,” Mr. DeLuca said, “it gets murky as to what the rules actually are. It could potentially get out of control.”

If the land cannot be preserved, Mr. DeLuca and Mr. Amper both say that developing the property as-of-right, which could include the construction of 82 single-family homes though that figure is also being disputed by preservationists, would be a better option than permitting a clustered development and an 18-hole golf course.

“I’d like to see the Town Board deny the PDD,” Ms. Spilka said. “I don’t think there is any community benefit they can give that would warrant development on this site because of the potential contamination.”

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The usual suspect blow hards are out in force talking about the environment. These people like stealing your constitutional rights to use your land. They have no proof of pollution just the same nazi tactics of bullying people till they give up.
By chief1 (2788), southampton on Mar 4, 15 4:39 PM
The Constitutional rights of the Discovery Land Company have not been violated if the PDD is not approved! They retain the right to build the homes which were already approved when they purchased the property. How about learning the facts before your shoot your mouth off????????
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 6, 15 7:03 AM
to chief1:

Right, chief, the experts, quoted in the article are "blow hards", trying to deprive developers of their "constitutional right" to poison our drinking water and bays. We should all wait for "proof", that is, the ACTUAL poisoning following the construction of this benighted project, rather than defer to "mere" evidence.

Not to worry, though, this is a multi-million dollar project and there is a Republican majority (outed and closeted) on the town board.
By highhatsize (4183), East Quogue on Mar 4, 15 4:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Highhat has it right, as usual, including, I fear, his take on the composition of the Town Board.

Chief, please, enough with the nazi stuff and the bluster about constitutional rights. Let's have a little review of some basic constitutional law: Your right to free speech doesn't entitle you to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater when there's no fire, because public safety trumps free speech.

In the same way, your right to "use your land" doesn't entitle you to trash the water we ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Mar 5, 15 10:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
You're right - I never said he wasn't credible, but it is classic Hampton's mentality.

It's OK for me to live here, but let's not anyone else move in. He states that the groundwater is polluted from nitrogen, but he is contributing to that pollution. Should he upgrade his system at a very steep cost? Maybe... or maybe move somewhere that has an STP, or at least state that he is contributor to the overall problem.

Why is it OK for him to pollute the water, but no one else ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 5, 15 12:27 PM
And you're right, he can state that his old septic system is contributing to the problem, and while he's advocating against this particular polluting PDD, he can also advocate for a sewage treatment plant here in Southampton -- again, a common solution instead of go-it-alone.
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Mar 5, 15 12:39 PM
Hey, no hardship to the Discovery Land Company if the Southampton Town Board does not allow the change in zone. They still have the right to build 82 homes which has been approved. They purchased the property with 5 acre zoning in place and are trying to "game" the PDD system in Southampton Town. The alleged benefits to the EQ community does not outweigh the negatives. It should be a relatively easy decision for the SHTB given the facts brought to their attention. Let them build their 82 homes and ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 4, 15 6:50 PM
I enjoy reading posts which by those in favor of "The Hills" from those who DO NOT live in our community! How about saving the time and money SHTB and deny the Discovery Land Company the change in zoning? Let them build the 82 homes which is what was approved!!! If "outsiders" want a resort golf course let them put it elsewhere.............like their backyard!!!!!!!!
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 5, 15 7:04 AM
"outsiders" Really you mean the people who live here, pay taxes, and use no services. You sound like an ignorant red neck. The Germans said Jews were outsiders before ww2. Not very nice!!
By chief1 (2788), southampton on Mar 5, 15 1:20 PM
Redneck, that's just ignorant!!! Are you saying that everyone who live in EQ and is opposed to "The Hills" is a redneck?

An "outsider" is someone who doesn't live in the community. Is that really a hard concept for you to understand?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 6, 15 6:53 AM
The elephant in the room is too much traffic !
Every thing should be done to purchase to preserve all unbuilt lots available. The other elephant awaiting all of us: Hurricanes. We already have an evacuation nightmare.
By Tester35 (2), Southampton on Mar 5, 15 9:20 AM
I would like to know how many golf courses in the United States in the last 20 years have been proven to have polluted the local the groundwater .
By afj (24), East Quogue on Mar 5, 15 9:24 AM
Not nearly as much as farmers and homeowners have.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 5, 15 9:28 AM
"Additionally, Dr. Gobler described Weesuck Creek as the “epicenter” for toxins that are responsible for the brown and red tides that have decimated shellfish populations, especially those in western Shinnecock Bay, in recent years."

And yet, Dr. Gobler lives in this area and has a standard septic system that contributes to the problem.

I am a supporter of Dr. Gobler and his work, but it's impossible for him to be objective on this project, given how close he lives ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 5, 15 9:51 AM
2 members liked this comment
Because Dr. Gobler lives in the community it does not mean that the scientific data he presents is flawed!!! Opinion in one thing, facts are another!!!
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 6, 15 6:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
Relax with the !!!

If you take the time to read what I wrote, I never said his scientific data is flawed. What I said is, "it's impossible for him to be objective on this project" and it would be better if he came out and said that.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 6, 15 9:01 AM
No, you never said his scientific data is flawed but said it's impossible for him to be objective on this project.

If one was to adopt your thought process on objectivity on this project we can take that a bit further. All Town of Southampton elected and appointed officials who deal in the real estate market in Southampton Town should also disclose this to the public when making any and all decisions on this project.........
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 6, 15 9:16 AM
Not all development projects are equal. The Hills development project happens to be proposed in the largest expanse of privately owned untouched pine barrens that exists on Long Island. That is likely why it's getting more attention from scientists and environmental advocates, regardless of where they may reside, over other projects. Please take a moment to read up on Dr. Gobler's work in Northport, Jamaica Bay, The Forge River, Mecox Bay, Old Fort Pond, Lake Agawam, Flanders Bay, Long Island ...more
By Shootingstar (9), Southampton on Mar 6, 15 11:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Of course Turkey Bridge doesn't think living on a body of water with an inferior septic system would hurt someone's credibility. From what you have said in the past you are someone who lives in EQ on the water with an inferior system. Like I said above the thing about blowhards. Well you know what I mean George.
By chief1 (2788), southampton on Mar 6, 15 1:16 AM
Hey chief, right about on the water, wrong about an inferior system, wrong about East Quogue. If you looked at the screen name and knew a little more about local geography, you'd know it's not EQ. Hey, if you just looked at the byline, it says Quiogue, not EQ.

So, one out of three ain't very good. Even if I hadn't had to upgrade the septic when I renovated and still had an old system, it's the same as I wrote about Dr. Gobler -- just because a guy maybe can't afford the upgrade doesn't ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Mar 6, 15 11:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
Nature - you seem to be able to read Gobler's mind since you have the ability to question his objectivity. If that is the case, keep reading and try to gets a grasp on the facts and the issues surrounding the Hills - because presently, you are without one.
By William Rodney (558), southampton on Mar 6, 15 10:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Desperation is apparent when the worst you can say about Dr. Gobler's credibility is that he lives in East Quogue .... in a house... with a septic system. Alrighty then.
By Shootingstar (9), Southampton on Mar 6, 15 11:54 AM
ob·jec·tive /əbˈjektiv/ adjective

1. (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

Can we all agree that the fact that Dr. Gobler lives within 1/4 mile of the proposed project site, that it is difficult (or impossible) for his opinion to NOT be influenced by the impacts the project would have on his personal life?

I have not discredited anything he has said, and I am not taking ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 6, 15 12:43 PM
Nature, just what is your issue with Dr. Gobler other than he lives in the EQ community? You seem to believe that alone disqualifies his ability to present facts against "The Hills" project.

I would like to see you raise the same issue of the lack of objectivity when in comes to the Southampton Town Supervisor who has a real estate license. How about others who are either appointed or elected who have an interest in real estate in Southampton Town? These same individuals allowed the Discovery ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 6, 15 5:24 PM
My only issue is that he has a dog in the fight - it's not just a science based argument from him (but he doesn't disclose it that way). A lot of people have jumped on me for those statements, which means I have to try and defend my position.

What's everyone's issue with me pointing out the fact that he lives "next door" and therefore has more to gain from the blocking of this project than the rest of us?

And with respect to ATH and others, go ahead and call them out, I'll be ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 7, 15 4:40 PM
Sorry Turkey Bridge if you want to change something you should start with yourself. Please don't preach about saving the bay when you are polluting it. Why does someone have to be held to a higher standard than you, and Dr Gobler? Ever hear of equal protection? Hypocrisy at it's best!
By chief1 (2788), southampton on Mar 6, 15 9:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Chief, you need not only geography help, but some remedial reading, too. As I clearly wrote above, I do not have one of the old inferior septic systems, but a new upgraded system. I wrote that your guess about my having an inferior system was wrong, so what's all this talk about my polluting the waters?

I continue to maintain that whether or not someone has an updated system doesn't affect their right to speak on the subject, but please do get your facts about me straight.

It's ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Mar 7, 15 2:59 PM
Just read the NY Post......according to an article George Clooney and pals just bought the Dune Deck Beach resort in Westhampton.

The articles goes on to say that Clooney also plans to build a golf course and luxury homes nearby on 500 acres. I wonder where that is? Is he involved with the Discovery Land Company in "The Hills" project?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 7, 15 6:44 AM
I'm just so excited that George Clooney and pals are one of the investors in the Discovery Land Company. Maybe I will get to see him pass by in his limo once "The Hills" is developed and he plays golf there...

Somehow, I think the SHTB will cave and allow our environment to be impacted by the project. Southampton officials will get to hobnob with a celebrity. How special........
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 7, 15 7:00 AM
Note quite...

From the NY Times yesterday in an article about a development upstate:

“There is nothing in this area with this level of amenities and luxury and services,” said Michael Meldman, the flashy chief executive of Discovery Land, who once dated Brandi Glanville of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and is an owner of the liquor brand Casamigos Tequila, along with George Clooney and Rande Gerber, the night life entrepreneur and husband of Cindy ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 7, 15 4:49 PM
From the NY Post March 6, 2015 under the heading; "Clooney on "Deck" in Westhampton Beach Resort Deal."

"The Dune Deck Beach Resort in Westhampton Beach, once a hot spot for Hamptonites, has been sold to a developer backed by billionaire Ron Burkle, George Clooney and his pal Rande Gerber."

"Burkle, Clooney and Gerber are said to be developing a luxury home and golf community on a 500-acre tract of land near the site, and the Dune Deck would become part of the development, with ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Mar 7, 15 5:10 PM
It is blatantly obvious that development on this land is going to have a tremendous impact on the environment. The only option here is purchasing this land for preservation, to protect the Pine Barrens and our Drinking Water. If the owner refuses, it can be seized by use of Eminent Domain laws.
By PineBaron (10), Westbury on Mar 7, 15 8:31 PM
Not without compensation, which will be costly. Let the CPF buy it, they have boat loads of loot!
By whatapity (106), Tuckahoe on Mar 8, 15 8:05 PM
Can't use eminent domain - the Town can deny the PDD but can't deny the as-of-right. Town controls the zoning, so they could have zoned it A-10 if felt justified.

CPF made an offer with fair market value that was rejected - they can't go above what the land is appraised for. Obviously DLC thinks that they can get a bigger return and are gambling that the PDD will be approved.

Crusader - I see what "Page 6" says, but from the NY Times and other sources, it appears that Clooney ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 9, 15 11:43 AM
Shows how smart people are when they believe page 6 as gospel. Typical small town jealousy
By chief1 (2788), southampton on Mar 8, 15 2:44 PM