JUST WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THE SHOOTING RANGE
ON THE CARMANS RIVER?

COMMENTARY


By John Palasek

The Suffolk County Trap & Skeet Range is located in Southaven County Park in the Core Preservation Area of the Pine Barrens and it rests very close to the Carmans River. Naturally, we as a community are concerned for our own health and quality of life issues, but just as importantly we (as do many other Long Island residents) enjoy the presence of the Carmans River and are concerned about its future health.

But the bigger picture here is that the presence of this shooting range in an environmentally sensitive area threatens an ecosystem which has been designated by New York State as an environmentally critical and sensitive watershed and more importantly threatens the health of the Carmans River - the last relatively pristine river left on Long Island.

The CARMANS RIVER WATERSHED AND MANAGEMENT PROTECTION PLAN outlines a detailed effort to preserve and protect the Carmans River but it is simply not possible to have any serious discussion about protecting and preserving the Carmans River Watershed without addressing the existence and effect of the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet range which sits a mere 800 yards from the river itself.



Way back in March of 2002, the "Carmans River Environmental Assessment Report" was prepared for Suffolk County by Cashin Associates. 
The report pointed out that the Carmans River “is almost entirely fed by groundwater from the uppermost of Long Island’s aquifers”.
That very same report also examined the Suffolk County Trap & Skeet Range and pointed out that the range “sits directly atop a sole source aquifer from which Long Islanders draw their drinking water and is part of the Carmans River Watershed and Drainage Basin.” 
 
Also in March of 2002, a report of the Trap and Skeet Oversight Committee was prepared for then Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Peter A. Scully.  That report indicated that: “Lead contaminated soil exists throughout a major portion of the range.  Lead levels well above those acceptable for parkland use were encountered to a depth of at least 6” below grade.”   This report also stated that groundwater samples taken in December of 2001 indicated lead levels as high as 20ppb, which is significantly higher than the New York State standard for drinking water of 15 ppb.

Suffolk County’s own documents, namely the “Review of the 2007-2009 Proposed Capital Program 2007 Capital Budget”, (published in May 2006), as well as the 2006-2008 Proposed Capital Program 2006 Capital Budget, (published in May 2005), refer to lead and other contaminates that resulted from the use of the range stating that “This material has been determined to be hazardous waste and poses a threat to the ground water."   Additionally, recent groundwater samples taken between 2007 and 2008 in an area downgrade of the range near the Carmans River showed elevated levels of arsenic (arsenic is used in the manufacture of lead shot as a hardening agent).


Richard Amper, the Executive Director of the Pine Barrens Society referred to initiatives with Citizens Campaign for the Environment and others to protect the river. Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment wrote a letter on November 26th, 2008 to Peter Scully (presently the DEC Regional Director) calling for the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet Range to be closed.  
In her letter, Ms. Esposito wrote: “The Trap and Skeet facility in Southaven County Park has accumulated high amounts of lead and other contaminants from years of use”, and that “Levels this high pose potential threats to the environment and public health.”  
Ms. Esposito also wrote:  “The soil and water testing clearly indicates that there is significant lead contamination in the surrounding area…CCE would urge the Pine Barrens Commission and the Department of Environmental Conservation to act swiftly to close the trap and skeet facility in Southaven County Park ...” 

Clearly, the presence of the Trap and Skeet range constitutes a threat to the environment as well as a threat to the Carmans River itself.  Suffolk County owns and operates the range and is directly responsible for its impact on the environment.  The County’s own documents as well as findings published by a variety of its own committees and legislative bodies all refer to the range as having a negative impact on the environment and that cannot be ignored. 

Whatever one's position is regarding the need for this facility, the impact it has on its immediate surroundings as well as its impact on concerning the Carmans River and its environs must be considered.  For Suffolk County to claim that it is concerned with protecting the river while ignoring its own role in threatening it is alarming.


 

Residential pollution sources  in the area may very well be part of the pollution problem but cannot be more of a concern than lead and arsenic. 
The question is:
"Which pollution source would be most easily eliminated?"

Since entire communities cannot be moved but the shooting range can be, the answer to that question is obvious.