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Great South Bay cleanup planned to get debris out of waterway

An Amityville-based group will clean up some Great

An Amityville-based group will clean up some Great South Bay salt marsh islands near the Amityville Cut on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Volunteers in 2012 pulled out tires, wood and trash. Credit: Fran Berkman

An Amityville-based organization continues its 10-year battle against trash in the Great South Bay with plans for a Sept. 17 cleanup of the junk and debris they pull off the waterway and its islands.

Great South Bay Society members, using fishing and pleasure boats for transportation and borrowed barges to carry their haul, collect the trash from the salt marsh islands near the Amityville Cut. As in past years, they expect to fill two 30-yard trash bins with the debris this year.

“There’s plastic bottles, most of the stuff that floats off people’s lawns, deck boards,” said Todd Brice, who owns Yacht Service marina on Ocean Avenue and founded the society. “We found some pretty weird stuff: a military flare from an aircraft. We turned that over to the police.”

Some of the trash floats out from storm drains; some is deliberately dumped, he said.

“One place had 50 tires, a little island right off Copiague,” Brice said.

For several years, the society used a derrick to remove the engine blocks from abandoned boats. They took a dozen that were accessible. Plenty more are out there, along with intact boats, Brice said.

“You can go by the islands and see very little trash,” he said of the search for debris. “I took notice because I’m a duck hunter, fisherman, clammer. When we first started out, people doubted me. We’d take them out and come back with barges heaped over the top. Everybody was surprised. Then the next year we’d go out and the same thing would happen.”

With two friends, Dave Hager of East Massapequa and Mike Babich of Amityville, Brice increased participation in the society’s cleanups to about 100 people and found corporate funding to help with the cost. Babylon Town provides trash bins and handles disposal of the collected debris.

“It’s definitely needed,” said Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist for the Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “In particular, the plastic trash is damaging to the fish and wildlife and can even get into our food supply because it gets eaten by the fish and wildlife.”

Along with similar efforts by Freeport-based Operation Splash, volunteers remove at least 140,000 pounds of trash from the bay each year.

Brice gets angry when he sees plastic water bottles left under the bleachers at the Amityville Memorial High School track, or cellophane tossed from a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store, knowing it likely will eventually end up in the bay.

“We’re not really getting ahead of it,” he said. “Probably we’re keeping up with it.”

To start the cleanup, the society will meet 8 a.m. Sept. 17 at Yacht Service, 144 Ocean Ave. in Amityville. Volunteers should wear boots, long-sleeved shirts and pants, officials said. Gloves and garbage bags will be provided. The cleanup will finish around 12:30 p.m. The rain date is Sept. 18. For more information, email

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