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Irrigation Committee asks for delay, seeks more testimony

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Members of the Irrigation Committee got a lesson from Mark Mobius on the use of fertilizers and concerns about how inorganic material leeches into the soil.
Members of the Irrigation Committee got a lesson from Mark Mobius on the use of fertilizers and concerns about how inorganic material leeches into the soil.

With the original date for a report to the Town Board already in the rear view mirror, the Irrigation Committee agreed February 6 to formally ask for an extension.

What the committee — charged with researching the pros and cons of implementing a ban on automatic irrigation systems — suggested is its final report to the board be delivered in mid-July. With a July deadline, it’s likely that the board could act to either implement the ban or abandon it by September 2014.

The delay arose because the committees authorized two updated field studies aimed at revealing chloride levels in wells plus information on nitrates and phosphates. Consultant John Benvegna of Leggette, Brashears & Graham is currently compiling information gleaned from the first study done in January. He will be comparing information obtained last month with reports from 1975 and 1986, according to committee chairman Thom Milton.

On March 6, Mr. Benvegna, whose office is in White Plains, will explain the new findings to the committee via Skype, Mr. Milton said. A second set of field tests is planned for this spring, likely in May, and while the committee will begin compiling its report to the Town Board in advance of those findings, it will have time to add them before its expected mid-July deadline.

In addition to its alternate Thursday night meetings, the committee has added a meeting on Saturday, March 1, at 1 p.m. with Cornell Cooperative Extension turf management and pest specialist, Tamson Yeh.
Ms. Yeh has shared her expertise with landscapers and pest control agents and will explain how to best grow green healthy lawns without leeching pollutants into the soil, the aquifer and the Island’s surrounding waterways.

Prior to Ms. Yeh’s appearance, Sylvester Manor Executive Director Cara Loriz is slated to speak at the February 20 meeting at 7 p.m., offering information on irrigation methods employed at the Manor.
Committee member Mark Mobius shared information with his colleagues on organic and inorganic fertilizers, best practices in using fertilizers in terms of both the health of lawns and safety from ingredients leeching into the soil and, potentially, the aquifer and waterways.

Similarly, member Fred Hyatt shared information on the use of pesticides that can adversely affect water quality.

Most important, Mr. Mobius said, is for homeowners need to have their soil tested before adding any fertilizer to determine what nutrients are needed. In line with the Northeast Organic Farming Association recommendations, no fertilizers should be applied within 15 feet of waterways or between November 1 and April 1 when the ground may be frozen. Under New York State law, no fertilizer containing phosphorus can be applied unless a soil test indicates there’s a deficiency, he said.

With restrictions in place on the use of pesticides and heavy fines for violators, most dangerous chemicals found in soil that could leech into the water are the result of products used years ago, Mr. Hyatt said. He speculated that the most used pesticide on the Island today is permethrin, used to kill ticks.

It’s used on the town’s 4-posters and is applied by a certified technician, Nick Ryan.

Town officials maintain that using the tickicide on 4-posters doesn’t result in leeching of the toxin into the water. But Mr. Hyatt pointed out that individual homeowners applying permethrin to their own properties are often over-spraying.

Use of certain pesticides require that neighbors be notified, but others don’t require such notifications, he said.

The committee will continue to gather more information, much of it expected to come from Ms. Yeh’s presentation, on both fertilizers and pesticides and their possible impacts on the water supply.

At the same time, members are beginning to compile other material that will eventually be edited into the final report that is given to the Town Board.