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Airfield not a done deal for septic plant: Alternative sites to be explored

In two days of meetings — Water Advisory Committee on Monday and the Town Board work session Tuesday — the exploration of sites for a wastewater treatment system serving the Center has expanded beyond Klenawicus Airfield.

Councilwoman Meg Larsen described the WAC discussion of alternative sites as “out of the box thinking.”

It’s not that the airfield idea has been abandoned. But Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates, the consulting firm that created the report recommending the place, agreed with WAC members Monday that a full exploration of several other Center sites should take place to provide fuller information.

What opened the discussions appeared to be the possibility of locating a treatment system in one place, while sending clean, treated water to another place.

The treatment and disposal systems can be at different sites, Mr. Lombardo told the WAC Monday.

“You’re lucky because you’ve got options,” Mr. Lombardo told the WAC.

From the time the Lombardo report was first outlined at a Town Board work session, neighbors in the area around the airfield have argued against it, maintaining it has flooding problems and there are concerns about treated effluent affecting Coecles Harbor. Mr. Lombardo has said the treated effluent would be cleaner than runoff that currently goes into the Harbor.

Another concern has been voiced on several occasions by Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board Chairman Gordon Gooding. He warned again at Tuesday’s work session that if preserved lands  —  such as the airfield — are allowed to have uses changed after acquisition, it would set a bad precedent. Current practice has been to identify uses and maintenance of preserved land at the time of acquisition.

But Supervisor Gerry Siller said Tuesday that CPF is about preservation of the community, not land, and that includes water cleanliness.

Another concern has been whether to embrace the treatment system the Lombardo report recommends — the NitrexTM technology system developed by the company, which some  people have questioned.

Mr. Lombardo maintains his company won’t benefit from use of the technology, noting that there are a limited number of wastewater treatment systems. Suffolk County would approve its use on the Island,  and the Nitrex TM technology is unparalleled in its ability to treat wastewater, Mr. Lombardo said.

Another suggestion that emerged during Tuesday’s work session was the possible use of land at the horse farm site on Smith Street. The Town doesn’t own that land, but Mr. Siller said no site that could be used is off the list.

Others include Fiske Field; land adjacent to the Center Firehouse; land in the Sachem’s Wood area; the Recycling Center; and privately owned lots between the library and Post Office. There were concerns in the report about each of these places in terms of possible limits to expansion that could be needed if other currently unidentified contaminants need treatment, or there’s a desire to deal with nitrates in other areas on the Island.

WAC member Andrew Chapman asked if the treatment system is placed somewhere in the Center, is there a risk that a contaminant is identified that can’t be treated there.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Mr. Lombardo responded. Equipment to treat other contaminants is going to need space to be added, and some Center sites might not be sufficiently large enough to accommodate that, he added.

Timing of any implementation of a project is of concern for WAC Chairman Peter Grand. He would like to see movement on the design of the wastewater management system for the Center while there is federal infrastructure money available.

System design is already funded from the same grant that provided for the Lombardo study.

Mr. Siller told the Town Board Tuesday that dealing with water quality issues has been essential for decades, and this is the first time the Town is on the cusp of a plan.

It’s going to take more exploration and discussion, the supervisor said. “We’re not going to settle,” Mr. Siller said, explaining that he wants to take time to do the best project possible, which means more exploration and discussion before moving forward with the design phase.