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Board questions contractor on Historical Society ‘pond’

COURTESY PHOTO The 'sediment pond' at the Shelter Island Historical Society headquarters on Route 114.

COURTESY PHOTO The ‘sediment pond’ at the Shelter Island Historical Society headquarters on Route 114.

Contractor Chris Fokine, overseeing the construction at the Shelter Island Historical Society headquarters on Route 114, told the Town board Tuesday that a new pond that’s sprung up as a result of work there is being called “Lake Fokine.”

Mr. Fokine went before the board Tuesday to explain what was going on. In his original plans for constructing a new vault and other work at the society — formally approved by the board — Mr. Fokine had outlined a specific method of pumping water out of a deep pit. The method, however, proved unworkable, and a new method was used.

But Mr. Fokine had failed to tell the board about the change. ‘We should have come to you sooner,” Mr. Fokine said. “I apologize for that.”

Digging a deep construction excavation necessitates pumping water out, and on the Island, that means restoring it to the aquifer. The method originally approved by the board was an “injection well,”meaning pumping water into a well, but “it couldn’t handle the volume of the water,” Mr. Fokine said.

“Sediment ponding,” the method used now, pumps water from the excavation and puts it out on the ground where it is naturally filtered through earth until it reaches the aquifer. This is similar, Mr. Fokine said, to a natural flooding process. Also, the pond is 300 feet from any private wells and so far they have not been affected, he added.

The pond appears orange in places because iron in the water oxidizes when it hits the air, Mr. Fokine said. But he was unsure if the orange color could come from pipes pumping the water. An engineering firm is in the process of testing the water, he said.

Town Attorney Laury Dowd questioned Mr. Fokine about the pumped water leaching into town-owned and regulated wetlands on the property. Ms. Dowd said she didn’t want to go by next summer and see the wetlands “buried in silt.”

Mr. Fokine said precautions had been taken to protect the wetlands.

Town Engineer John Cronin mentioned that in the Town Code a “wetlands officer” is mentioned who is charged to look into certain wetland issues. Mr. Cronin asked who that person is and Ms. Dowd said it was the building inspector.

After the meeting, Mr. Cronin said that no one has been specifically appointed to be wetlands officer since former Building Inspector Bill Banks retired. “The Town Board might want to specifically designate a wetlands officer to enforce these kinds of things,” Mr. Cronin said.