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OYSTER BAY/Funding creates panel for watershed protection

A $60,000 federal grant will jump-start a new environmental protection committee for the Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor watershed, bringing together the jurisdictions that share its 40 square miles of land.

The Town of Oyster Bay, which includes 80 percent of the watershed, received the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant and will hire a coordinator to develop the committee's work plan. Projects will focus on balancing development with enhancing fish and wildlife habitats, and managing storm water pollution.

The area draining into Oyster Bay and Cold Spring harbors stretches from Glen Cove east to Huntington. "Basically, the most important thing is to bring all 18 municipalities that surround the harbors to work cooperatively," said Eric Swenson, superintendent of environmental control for the Town of Oyster Bay.

Oyster Bay and Huntington towns have already joined the committee. Swenson said he expects many of the smaller villages to follow, but that the committee would still function even if all municipalities did not join.

The Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor watershed was the last in Nassau County to come under management by a unified protection committee. "We have been suggesting this since the late '90s, so we're very happy," said Patricia Aitken, executive director of Friends of the Bay, a non-profit developing a watershed action plan for the area.

- PAUL LAROCCO

ISLANDWIDE/State warns homeowners about tainted fill dirt

Long Island homeowners undergoing construction or landscaping upgrades could be getting fill dirt tainted with building materials or other illegal solid waste, the regional director of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said yesterday in a news release.

Residents should protect themselves from costly removal fees by "asking tough questions when contractors offer to provide free fill materials" said Peter Scully, the department's Region 1 director.

The state has investigated about a half-dozen recent cases, including in Melville, Dix Hills, Ronkonkoma and Middle Island, in which fill soil was contaminated with construction and demolition debris and volatile organic compounds, he said.

Precautionary steps for homeowners include contacting the Regional Materials Management Division before accepting any materials, notifying the DEC Regional Office and the local town clerk in writing at least 30 days before a project, identifying the origin of the fill material and ensuring that the contractor is licensed by a government authority.

For information, residents can call the DEC's Office of Materials Management, 631-444-0375.

- GARY DYMSKI

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