Community Oversight Committee Formed By Suffolk County
In 1999, in response to public concerns over the mercury and PCB contamination in the Peconic River, the Suffolk County Legislature passed legislation that authorized a health and environmental assessment of the river. The assessment was to be undertaken by an independent investigator with oversight by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and a Community Oversight Committee appointed by the Legislature.
The Community Oversight Committee (COC) included members from the Community Alliance for Lab Accountability (CALA), the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR), Group for the South Fork, South Fork Breast Health Coalition, the Peconic Bay Keeper Program, Fish Unlimited, Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations, and the Longwood Alliance.
The COC worked in partnership with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. They assisted the County with the selection of an independent contractor to perform the health and environmental assessment. Cashin Associates, PC was selected and was in turn assisted by Integral Consulting. Work on the assessment began in the spring of 2002 and the report was completed in May 2004. The assessment included a qualitative survey of angler habits and fish consumption along the river. The Cashin Associates fish consumption survey found that some people catch large numbers of fish from the river and some eat more than 50 meals a year of such fish.
The NYS Department of Health has also evaluated data on Peconic River fish and concluded that the existing general fish advisory for all New York State ponds and rivers, including the Peconic, is sufficient. This general advisory is to protect residents from eating large amounts of fish that have not been tested or may contain unidentified contaminants, and recommends that no more than one meal (1/2 pound) per week of fish should be consumed from any freshwater location in the state.
As the COC was charged with reviewing cleanup options for the river and evaluating the necessary extent of the cleanup, the Legislature's resolution called for the selection of a panel of scientific experts to assist them with this work. In response to a 2001 request by the County Health Department, BNL contributed $35,000 toward the cost to fund the panel and allow for independent testing of sediment samples.
The COC completed their work in July of 2004, after a new cleanup plan for the Peconic River was agreed upon and implemented.
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