Two species of invasive plants have choked two lakes on the Carmans River during the summer months, and neither the Town of Brookhaven nor Suffolk County are acting fast enough to stop the slow death of the waterway, local residents, civic organizations and environmentalists said Monday.
"We don't want the lake to be a bunch of vegetation we can walk on," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said on the banks of the 25-acre Lower Lake just off Main Street near River Road in Yaphank. The 19-acre Upper Lake to the north, she said, is even more clogged with the two invasive plants, Cabomba and Variable Leaf Milfoil.
She and others blamed both Suffolk and the Town of Brookhaven for failing to dredge and clean the lakes.
"The bottom line is that the Yaphank lakes are dying and every year the county drags its feet, the lakes degrade even more," Esposito said. "The lakes no longer look like an open water body, but rather like a meadow . . . We've been dealing with this issue for almost a decade now."
A top Suffolk official said County Executive Steve Bellone, who took office Jan. 1, had pushed up the timetable for taking the sediment samples that are required before dredging can begin, and those samples were being examined by a private laboratory.
"I know this project has had a relatively long shelf life, but we're doing everything we can to expedite the project and allow it to move forward as quickly as possible," Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said in an interview.
Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents Yaphank, said the delay had been caused by the county's failure to finish testing the sediment by January. "We met with the county in January and the county said it had not done the entire lake," Kepert said. "This was a great surprise to me, and I think a surprise to everyone."
Chad Trusnovec, president of the Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association, said his family has lived along the river for 200 years, and his children are not able to enjoy it as earlier generations did.
"I've sat here watching this deteriorate year after year after year, and my children can't use the lakes the way I did," he said.
Variable Leaf Milfoil and Cabomba are common aquarium plants sometimes brought in accidentally by boats from other areas. They spread rapidly in open waters, forming dense mats that choke native plants and slow boaters and swimmers.