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Sylvester Manor concerned about proposed wastewater site

The consulting engineer for Sylvester Manor has raised significant questions about the proposed use of a site at 16 Manwaring Road for a treatment system to deal with liquid wastes from the Center.

Drew B. Bennett of DB Engineers submitted a letter to Sylvester Manor officials and copied it to the Town Board in late November, but has received no response to the questions he raised, nor was the letter made public until it reached others who had learned of its existence.

Mr. Bennett applauded the Town’s efforts to deal with problems “caused by the historical lack of adequate treatment of wastewater on Shelter Island and in municipal facilities,” but was concerned about potential negative impacts.

“The Sylvester Manor organization and its Board of Trustees is duty bound to do all in its power to prevent harm to this unique organization and its organic agricultural operation,” Mr. Bennett stated in his letter. There’s a need to know, he added, what actions the Town might take if the facility is placed at the 16 Manwaring Road site and results in Sylvester Manor losing consumers, donors and sponsors “critical to its continued viability and success.”

In his letter, Mr. Bennett said he understands the Town abandoning use of a site at Klenawicus Airfield for a treatment system after significant community push back. But he asks several questions about use of the 16 Manwaring Road site:

• Is the Town looking at the alternative plan using I/A septic systems, recommended by Christopher Gobler, Ph.D., director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at SUNY Stony Brook, and if not, why not?

• Can the Town identify other possible sites for what is known as a Nitrex treatment system, if it moves forward with that technology?

“The list of sites considered …is scant and not well vetted. In our estimation, there are other viable sites that should have been considered in the siting study. The Town’s basis for selecting the 16 Manwaring Road site and negating other alternative sites is rather simple and not thoroughly documented. As a result we find it not compelling,” Mr. Bennett wrote.

• Is the Town undertaking a full environmental review of the proposed project?

Mr. Bennett asks for information on the extent of the environmental review process. He wants information on the potential impact to the organic farm and Gardiners Creek. He asked for points in the planning review process when public hearings would be scheduled and information on other governmental agencies that might solicit public input.

• What are the characteristics of the wastewater stream to be treated? What contaminants might be anticipated in addition to treating nitrogen, and what action will be taken to treat emerging contaminants? To date, Pio Lombardo, of Lombardo Associates, the Town’s consulting engineer, has said there is no way to know what other contaminants might emerge, but his Nitrex treatment system can be adapted to deal with them.

If the Town continues to pursue siting of this system at 16 Manwaring Road, Mr. Bennett requested responses to further questions pertaining to effluent flow to ensure inclusion of covenants and restrictions limiting future expansion of flow and required monitoring of effluent, with requirements to augment treatment to manage future contaminants.

His aim is to ensure Sylvester Manor’s eight potable and irrigation well-water supplies will not be impacted by the treatment system so close to its property.

“Please demonstrate that pumping of Sylvester Manor wells will not capture treated effluent,” Mr. Bennett wrote. He asked for a description of monitoring the Town would undertake to ensure no effluent impact to Sylvester Manor’s wells.

Supervisor Gerry Siller has indicated the Town Board is awaiting all documents — letters and reports — that pertain to the Center wastewater project before making all of them public and responding to them.