Suffolk County buys 22 acres in federal settlement
Suffolk officials have agreed to buy a 22.2-acre parcel at the mouth of the Swan River in East Patchogue for $1.33 million, as part of a $2 million settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency for not properly monitoring the county’s 68 underground fuel storage tanks.
The purchase comes after the county in 2013 paid a $500,000 civil fine as part of the consent agreement.
The 22-acre acquisition is at the lower end of the 4-mile spring-fed stream that originates in Medford, becomes Swan Lake just north of Montauk Highway and flows south into Patchogue Bay.
Swan River is one of only seven Long Island streams with a naturally reproducing brook trout population. The bird species along the river include the bufflehead duck, glossy ibis, great blue heron and Wilson’s snipes.
In addition to the latest county acquisition, state and federal grants totaling $2.75 million in 2014 created a 3.8 acre Swan River Park Preserve, just south of Montauk Highway in what was formerly the Nesenger Chevrolet auto dealership and repair shop.
Federal authorities said the county violated leak-prevention rules for underground tanks at 35 sites, but acknowledged the violations “did not pose an immediate threat” to drinking water.
Suffolk officials said many of the violations, dating to 2008, involved record keeping and handling special wastes, including fluorescent lights.
County public works officials said when the settlement was first disclosed, they also hired two employees to improve fuel handling.
Originally, the EPA sought penalties totaling $2.55 million. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone balked at the deal, which was later renegotiated to $2 million.
County Attorney Dennis Brown said the county is still liable for an additional small acquisition to complete the remainder of the $1.5 million penalty.