Long Island: Private and Public Sectors Come Together to Save Stony Brook Creek from Environmental Disaster

The beautiful natural landscape around Stony Brook Creek is finally looking forward to some long-needed rehabilitation. The hope, as private property owners, the communities of Brookhaven and Smithtown, and the governing bodies in Suffolk County join forces to improve this location, is to help local species of flora and fauna to flourish again and to make the waterways safe for recreational activities like boating and fishing. County legislature at present is looking to forward half the cost of the revitalization, which is estimated to total just over $500,000. 

What Created the Current State of Stony Brook Creek? 

The main troubles that the project aims to tackle are twofold: The first involves the current drainage system. According to local sources, this has led to stormwater from nearby Stony Brook Harbor emptying into the area, leading to siltation. 

Siltation is an often humanmade form of water pollution that harms the local ecosystem, an over-accumulation of silt (or mineral) deposits that can harm local fish and wildlife, change coastlines, raise water temperatures, shrink wetlands, and even increase flooding frequency. Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) remarked on concerns regarding changes to water quality that have been noted, including the presence of blue algae in local ponds, one example of “all sorts of discharge” that the runoff has caused. 

The second issue is that of an overgrowth of phragmites, a form of watergrass classified as invasive in this part of the world. Brought over from Europe, it outperforms local flora and chokes it out, thus shifting the balance of the local ecosystem and native biodiversity. Biodiversity ensures that every living organism in an area plays a role in maintaining and sustaining the environment. Without plant biodiversity, the needs of local organisms are thus left in the hands of a more limited supply of resources. Human hands doing their part to maintain local ecosystems keeps local parks and forest areas healthy. This underscores how important it is that so many local bodies have come together to help Stony Brook Creek thrive.

The Plan for Cleanup: Trimming Back Phragmite Growth

It was reported that the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) will be helming this part of the project. Suffolk County has awarded them a grant to tackle a pilot program for clearing away around 12,000 square feet of harmful concentrations of phragmite. Their innovative new method promises completion without the use of harmful chemicals or mechanical equipment. 

In fact, the entire process is done by hand, and WMHO has reported that in tests in smaller areas, there is very limited regrowth, giving local flora a fighting chance against an otherwise robust competitor for soil and nutrients.

The Plan for Cleanup: The New Drainage System

Probably the more costly arm of Stony Brook’s revitalization, installing a new drainage system will likely begin with disconnecting the four drain pipes that feed into the creek. The intent is to create a new system that will divert drainage away, and handled through crews of laborers and contractors hired by the Brookhaven Town Highway Department. Their jobs will be to: 

  • Construct 32 catch basins.
  • Install 2,300 linear feet of new drain pipe around town rights of way.
  • Use these drain pipes to divert runoff away from the creek and into more environmentally safe places, such as the wetlands that can naturally filter and distribute new sediment without impacting ecosystem. 

Both arms of the project are expected to commence in the winter of this year and continue through to completion by the summer of 2021.

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