Southold Town Trustees have warning words for New Suffolk residents: curb your dogs, or West Creek will be permanently closed to shellfishing.
At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Trustees John Bredemeyer and James King came before the board to inform them the town is “teetering” on having West Creek permanently closed to shellfishing by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Right now, the status of West Creek is being downgraded to seasonal shellfish lands because of the contamination.
“It’s a dog problem and it’s a drain problem,” said Bredemeyer.
The area is popular with dog owners and there is evidence that they are not picking up after their dogs. Bredemeyer said he would like to get information from the Suffolk County Department of Health to see if they would do testing on West Creek, in addition to the DEC sample areas.
Councilman Albert Krupski noted the area was popular with duck hunters and questioned whether the water fowl in the area are also contributing to the problem.
Bredemeyer said it was “unknown” whether ducks are contributing to the problem with West Creek. There are many Canadian geese in the area as well.
“We do know that they are a major contributor where they (mallards) are hand-fed,” Bredemeyer said. “Sport-hunting may contribute to lowering some of our numbers.”
Supervisor Scott Russell wanted to know how long it would take to improve the conditions in the area after steps have been taken to get acceptable numbers at the creek. King said he has seen it take 15 years for a creek to get approved by the DEC.
According to Bredemeyer, any dog waste in the area is harmful. In a gram of animal waste, he said, there can be one million bacteria.
“Literally leavings of one or two animals at the ramp on Grathwohl Road can instantly contaminate acres of water,” Bredemeyer explained.
Swans can contribute significantly to contamination too, according to Bredemeyer. He and Krupski agreed that the town may not be able to curb the natural sources of contamination.
“There’s no quick fix-no silver bullet,” said Councilman Vincent Orlando after listening to the trustees.
“Our immediate first step is getting people to clean up after their dogs or we face the real possibility of the total closure of West Creek,” Bredemeyer said.
Councilman William Ruland believes the town needs to educate the community about the potential closing of the Creek and encourage them to clean up after their pets. He suggested using the town’s Public Access station, Channel 22, to post information and encouraged using the town’s website as well.