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Oct 5, 2016 10:15 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Concerned Citizens Of Hampton Bays Study Claims Bel Aire Cove Motel Is Polluting Penny Pond

A study shows that the Bel Aire Cove Motel in Hampton Bays is polluting the Penny Pond Canal. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Oct 5, 2016 11:19 AM

The Bel Aire Cove Motel in Hampton Bays came under fire from two of the hamlet’s civic leaders this week, as they called it the main contributor to pollution in Penny Pond Canal.

Michael Dunn and Robert Liner, president and vice president of Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays, said the motel’s septic system was designed for seasonal use only, and that the motel’s current year-round use means the system regularly exceeds its capacity.

The two-story motel on the south side of Shinnecock Road has been criticized by community groups for letting people stay there long-term and thus contributing to the pond’s poor water quality. The only thing separating the pond from the motel is a 115-foot-long bulkhead built in 1980.

“A motel is a motel,” said Mr. Liner, noting that his group has been pushing Southampton Town to do something about the motel for five years. “I’m not precise on it, because I’m not an engineer, but when a septic system is designed for a motel, there is a flowage of septics. It’s designed for 180-days-a-year’s worth of flowage from two people [per room]. When that unit is occupied 365 days a year by four people, you have quadrupled flowage—it just doesn’t work.”

Mr. Dunn and Mr. Liner said that members of their group were so concerned that they raised $5,000 to hire an environmental engineer—PW Grosser Consulting Inc., based in Bohemia—to conduct a water quality study.

PW Grosser collected samples from the canal adjacent to the Bel Aire Cove Motel bulkhead on August 22 at 6:30 a.m. during low tide. Alpha Analytical Laboratories, based in Westborough, Massachusetts, tested the water and found that the levels of fecal coliform, nitrogen and ammonia are especially high in the Penny Pond Canal.

Fecal coliform was at 200 mpn—an abbreviation for “most probable number”—per 100 milliliters. The study did not show what normal levels of fecal coliform would be, but Peconic Baykeeper Sean O’Neill, who was not involved with the research, at first said that the coliform level was “gigantically high.” As a baseline, Mr. O’Neill said, fecal coliform should usually stay below 4.5 mpn/100 ml.

He noted, however, that fecal coliform is a particularly broad term—an umbrella term for bacteria that is commonly used to measure water quality but that does not specify a type of fecal bacteria, such as Enterococcus, or E. coli, which could provide a better idea as to where the pollution is coming from.

Even so, the fecal coliform level found in the study appears to be high, according to Mr. O’Neill. “It indicates that it may be a problem and it should be tested further,” he said. “It gives you a red flag—but it doesn’t necessarily tell you that it’s to the point of not being [clean enough to be] used.”

Additionally, the study showed that nitrogen was at 4.5 milligrams per liter, which Mr. O’Neill said is also high. In marine environments, nitrogen levels should stay below 0.45 ml/l for marine life to survive. The county standard for drinking water is below 10 ml/l.

“This would be very, very high,” Mr. O’Neill said. “The only caveat to that would be, depending on when you are measuring—if the water hasn’t been flushed out yet, if you’re in some sort of contained pool of water. In general, you want it below 0.45.”

The water sample taken in the study also showed high levels of ammonia. The sample showed ammonia at 3.01 ml/l—according to Mr. O’Neill, ammonia levels should stay below 2 ml/l, depending on the temperature of the water.

A representative of the Bel Aire Cove Motel could not be reached this week.

Mr. O’Neill echoed Mr. Dunn and Mr. Liner, pointing out that inadequate septic systems are most likely the cause of the high levels of nitrogen, coliform and ammonia in Penny Pond Canal. Other pollutants, such as pesticides and lawn fertilizers, also could have played a role.

In the study, septic systems and long-term use of the motel property are blamed for most of the pollution. “There are concerns that, based on the current use of the property, the existing on-site septic system may not be sized appropriately to adequately treat wastewater prior to impact to the groundwater and the adjacent canal water,” the study reads in part.

Mr. Dunn, who also sits on the Hampton Bays Board of Education, said he is going to continue to fight for the town to regulate the motel until he sees a change.

“We have been working on this for five years,” Mr. Dunn said. “We are aware of the misuse use of housing accommodations, ranging from motels to single-family homes ... When you have a motel used full-time, 365 days year, you are going to get sewage dumped into our waterways.”

When the study was finished at the end of August, Mr. Dunn and Mr. Liner posted the findings on the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays Facebook page and forwarded them to the Southampton Town Board.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the town is looking into the issues raised by the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays, although he said he would need to see additional tests to confirm that the motel is polluting the water.

“I need something more conclusive,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We are certainly looking at Bel Aire and the use there. We are making sure they are conforming with the necessary permits.”

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Thank you CCHB leadership for working so hard on behalf of the Hampton Bays community. It is disgraceful that private citizens have to take so much time out of their personal lives and expend personal funds to do the job the Town should be doing. The system that should be place to serve and protect the law abiding property owners and residents has failed and continues to fail. This motel owner as well as other property owners have demonstrated a total disregard for the law, but our Town Officials ...more
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 16 11:50 AM
So, they specifically test at low tide, the bay keeper warns that any water that has pooled up and hasnt been flushed would test higher than normal, and yet, here we are....
This would all be much easier to discuss if people would just be honest. Say what they freaking mean. They want illegals, not paying school taxes, out.

But no. Lets argue about skewed water statistics and spend thousands on useless partisian studies and continue making no progress.

Bunch of idiots.
By Brandon Quinn (191), Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 16 8:56 PM
Shut the place down, it's not a MOTEL it's a SEWER! Guess I'm one of the idiots?
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Oct 5, 16 9:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Not cool, Mr. Quinn calling people idiots. This motel owner basically "thumbs their noses" at the Town Officials and the Town Officials look the other way. It is disgusting. If you think it is ok, you are entitled to your opinion, but don't call other people idiots because they don't agree it is ok.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Oct 6, 16 7:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
How much more testing needs to be done? Its a no brainer.......... seasonal hotel being used as a low income full time residence. A hotel doesn't house children, to attend school year round. This place has kids everywhere, so all of them have to be going into school system. Thank you CCHB for being that whistle blower, because our town leaders are blind to this.
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on Oct 6, 16 8:34 AM
Tue Republican, it is actually worse than the Town being blind to this. They have known about if for years, and have turned their back on the law-abiding residents and property with all kinds of excuses. I have heard them first hand - ATH told a group of residents that our problems are the result of small lots designed for working class property owners - like working class property owners don't deserve to live in a law-abiding community. I heard Mr. Schneiderman blame the courts and that he is ...more
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Oct 6, 16 8:56 AM
3 members liked this comment
So if this little motel causes a problem - what would happen with the proposed condos at the Shinnecock Canal?
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Oct 6, 16 5:35 PM
The fact pattern is completely unrelated between the motel and the Condos. The motel was established as a typical motel to be used on a seasonal basis. The motel septic systems are also very old. The rooms are currently overcrowded and used by full-year residents. The pollution problem is just one aspect - the motel owner has demonstrated a total disregard for the laws. The Condos will be required to be built up to the current code with up-to-date and adequate septic systems.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Oct 6, 16 7:11 PM
3 members liked this comment
Completely different stories. One is decades old and has cesspools, the other shall be brand new, with all the up-to-date codes, and have a water treatment plant. A treatment plant that the neighbors are complaining about...guess they don't care about the bays.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Oct 13, 16 10:39 AM
The Cove Motel should be bought by the Town of Southampton, and then extensively renovated and expanded. It probably won't cost more than $10 million or $20 million to add a state of the art sewage system and a 2nd floor for additional bedrooms. The Town could simply issue.more bonds to pay for it over time. It would be a nice start to our new Housing Authority that is dedicated to bringing affordable low income housing into our communities.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Oct 6, 16 7:20 PM
Some people might not actually realize you are kidding.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Oct 7, 16 8:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Also, the Town has already purchased 2 beach front properties in Hampton Bays on the ocean. These two properties next to Tiana Beach should be renovated into multi-family low income housing. We could hold a lottery and anyone who qualifies for low income housing could participate. Extensive low income housing projects worked really well for Coney Island -- we could have them here too. Why should only rich people live in oceanfront properties? Are they better than everyone else?
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Oct 7, 16 12:55 PM
Also...you must be joking....there are no estates on Dune Road in HB. The two properties next to Tiana were purchased with CPF funds for preservation. When was the last time you were in Coney Island? probably not recently or you would have seen the multi-million complex called the Oceana.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Oct 7, 16 2:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
However, if we are to house low income families in new oceanfront housing developments it becomes imperative to raise Dune Road several feet into the air so that the school buses can pick up the children during full moon high tides -- or perhaps we could buy 2 or 3 hovercraft and jet them across the bay to school bus pick up points closer to the elementary school -- then we could put the hovercraft dock right at the Bel Aire Cove since that will be Town property.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Oct 8, 16 2:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
the reality is that the motel is in Hampton Bays and the continued obfuscation of town codes and enforcement is a result of "well I guess there just not into us"(Hampton Bays)
By tom (53), Hampton Bays on Oct 10, 16 11:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
By joe hampton (3461), Hamptons on Oct 12, 16 2:24 PM
Give me break more testing to have y do something. Take a ride on the new Shuttle bus and go by. Has anyone see customers on your big success.
By jjinhb (16), Hampton Bays on Aug 1, 17 12:06 PM