The Town Supervisor stated that only 1 acre of the 14 acre proposed STP in Hither Woods would be cleared, is this True?

No! Last week, the Town Supervisor tried duping a large percentage of the people in Suffolk County when he said, in an article in Newsday, that only about one acre of the fourteen acres of County parkland which the Town wants to acquire in Hither Woods would be cleared for the proposed Montauk sewage treatment plant (STP).

Perhaps the Town Supervisor is just not that familiar with the Town’s development plan for the 14-acre STP site in Hither Woods, even though he has been the Town Board’s main advocate for the sewer project throughout. But his statement in Newsday seemed clearly designed to persuade people that the Town wouldn’t be doing anything really bad with the parkland it would get from Suffolk County.

The problem with the Supervisor’s statement about clearing only one acre of woodland is that it is false. Let’s first remember that throughout this process the public has been given very little information about the Montauk sewer proposal. That is deliberate. The Town Board, and especially the Supervisor, have withheld from the public the principal source of information about the Montauk sewer project - a report prepared by engineering consultant H2M, which the Town Board received in July 2022. It took a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by The Coalition for Hither Woods to pry that report loose in December. Even today, the Town has not posted the H2M report, which is the main source of information about the Town’s wide-ranging and expensive sewer proposal, on its website.

Within the H2M report is a short explanation of what will be built at the sewage treatment site in Hither Woods, plus a conceptual site development diagram (Figure 6). See the attachment to this email. Here is what the report and the diagram tell us. First, the Town will build a 22,500 square foot (150’ X 150’) sewage treatment building. There will be at least one other building, for maintenance and administration. The H2M report says that “headworks, equalization, and sludge holding infrastructure" will also be constructed. These buildings will require parking areas. The sewage treatment building will have a road around all four sides of the building, presumably for emergency access. The buildings, with parking and access, might realistically use up about three acres of the 14-acre STP site.

Treated effluent from the sewage plant will be discharged into the ground through an extensive system of leaching pools, which are basically concrete cesspool rings, each 10 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep. These leaching pools will be distributed throughout much of the 14-acre property. Text associated with Figure 6 says that 146 leaching pools will be installed, but the H2M site diagram appears to show a total of 250 leaching pools at full build-out. Effluent from the sewage treatment plant will flow to the leaching field through underground pipes. There will also be driveways leading from the STP building to each leaching pool node. That’s a lot of stuff to put on and under the ground while, as the Supervisor would have you believe, clearing only one acre of land!

It is physically impossible to install 250 leaching pools, with associated access roads and piping, not to mention a 1/2-acre sewage treatment building and at least one other large building, without clearing most of the woods on the STP site. Leaching pool structures of the size proposed will be installed using backhoes and maybe cranes. Before that is done all the land in the vicinity of the leaching field must be completely cleared of vegetation - and kept cleared thereafter. The most efficient way to clear forest is with bulldozers. The land clearing is not only for installation purposes but also because no trees can be left standing near the leaching pools or the discharge pipes. Tree roots would otherwise find their way into the leaching structures and pipes and either clog them up or slowly tear them apart.

It looks as though more than half of the 14-acre STP site will be used for the leaching field and its 250 leaching pools. Overall, based on the H2M site diagram, at least 10 acres of the 14-acre STP site will be cleared. We can’t be more precise than that because the H2M diagram does not show a proposed clearing boundary and it may not show all the needed improvements. Likewise, the drawing doesn’t depict a chain-link security fence around the perimeter of the STP property, but we know there will be one because you don’t build a major infrastructure project like this and leave it unprotected. In short, the proposed Montauk sewage treatment plant ruin almost all of the 14 acres of forest targeted for the plant. The remaining question is whether, if this plant were ever built, the Town would someday need even more parkland for future sewer expansions.

The Town has hurt its own credibility by consistently withholding information about the Montauk sewer project from the public, and by misrepresenting aspects of the project - including its purpose.

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