The Moriches duck farm is under scrutiny again, and this...

The Moriches duck farm is under scrutiny again, and this time for potential animal abuse. The farm - frequently cited by town and state authorities for pollution and financial problems - has been the site of a spate of recent duck deaths, sources say. (June 17, 2011) Credit: Steve Pfost

Beset by financial problems and charges of environmental violations, the Jurgielewicz Duck Farm in Moriches announced Monday it will cease operations by the end of July and the property will be sold at public auction.

"The reasons are fairly simple and purely economic," farm spokesman Giles Shai said. "The cost structure of operating on Long Island is extremely prohibitive."

The news was hailed by critics who say the sprawling 65-acre duck farm on the Forge River is a major contributor to river pollution, among other environmental offenses.

"In shuttering these operations we will close the faucet of nitrogen loading into the river from this facility," said Brookhaven Councilman Daniel Panico, who represents the area. "This is a major victory."

The farm, founded in 1919, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2010, records state.

Local officials, including Panico, said the farm has been hiding behind the bankruptcy case to avoid addressing its environmental infractions. More than two years after the state Department of Environmental Conservation asked an administrative law judge to fine the farm $776,000 for multiple wetlands violations and excessive pollution, the farm continues to be the source of odor and pollution complaints from nearby residents, Panico said.

In October the DEC filed an additional $600,000 claim in federal bankruptcy court -- over the farm's failure to correct violations as required by a 2005 consent order with the state.

"The bankruptcy has tied up the administrative enforcement," DEC regional director Peter Scully said. "The attorney general's office and the DEC have been trying to get it shut down."

Scully said closing the farm will improve water quality in the area, "but the site itself will need to be properly closed. That will involve eliminating conditions which might otherwise threaten the environment, such as duck waste."

Shai said environmental concerns are overstated. "The farm has always maintained that it has not polluted the Forge River to the extent Mr. Panico claims."

Asked whether the DEC would continue to seek penalties for past environmental violations, Scully said: "Eliminating the discharge to the river is one thing, making sure the site is properly closed up is another."

The farm was besieged by recent claims of animal abuse allegedly stemming from its financial situation. But complaints that some of its 3,000 ducks were underfed and not provided with adequate bedding were unfounded, said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The farm's bankruptcy case is ongoing, Shai said.

The farm is a major producer of Pekin ducks, the white ducks found on Chinatown menus and in Aflac insurance commercials.

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