The Department of Environmental Conservation’s division of environ- mental remediation invited members of the WIS CREEK association last Wednesday, March 11, to view the work done on …
The Department of Environmental Conservation’s division of environ- mental remediation invited members of the WIS CREEK association last Wednesday, March 11, to view the work done on the portion of Willets Creek behind West Islip High School.
Several teachers and a handful of students joined DEC workers at the gate adjacent to the high school park- ing lot, and were escorted northward along the creek to see the remedia- tions and the maintenance necessary moving forward.
There is a stormwater retention basin located just east of the school parking lot and had been overgrown with phragmites, an invasive plant species recognized by New York.
“It collects stormwater from the parking lot,” said Sarah Saucier, of the division. “It was all overgrown before we cleaned it out to get it back to its original purpose. So now it just needs to be maintained in order to keep with that purpose of the stormwater retention.”
Saucier continued on to say that, in accordance with aiding the basin’s original purpose, allowing it to develop into a wetland would be counterproductive.
“Then we lose the purpose, and then it becomes permitted [land],” she said.
There had also been trees planted in areas abutting the creek, and species like cedar were particularly chosen.
“Because this is a wetland area, under our core permit, we have to make sure there is an 80 percent survival rate,” Saucier said. “And there are only approved plantings from our core per- mit that we can plant.”
Another necessary aspect of the maintenance is cleaning up the garbage and other items present in the wetland area. Craig Gielarowski, an assistant principal at the high school, sported wading boots in order to remove pieces of rubbish from the water. The school’s STEM classes are also designing and constructing in-stream garbage collectors for this purpose.
A tent owned by the DEC had been set up in the rear parking lot of the school near the gate since November, and though it is no longer erected, there is expectation to have parking available there no later than June. The parking area had been previously designated for high school seniors and will return to such use by June.
The DEC held a public availability session later that night for residents and interested parties to learn more about the work done and the ongoing maintenance of the creek.
“DEC is committed to a careful and thorough cleanup of Willets Creek, Lake Capri, and the surrounding impacted properties, while keeping the West Islip community informed of our actions,” read a March release disseminated by the department.
Considering the nature of the contaminants present at the creek as well as the proximity of residences to the site, the DEC has expressed that processes are moving as quickly, safely and involving as little invasion to the nearby properties.
“Our top priority is ensuring that students, faculty, and all other community members do not come into contact with any site-related contamination,” the release continued. “DEC and the New York State Department of Health are coordinating closely with the project contractors to facilitate completing this work expeditiously to limit impacts to the community.”
The DEC anticipates that most of the work in this sector of the creek will be completed this upcoming winter, with minor restoration activities, including planting, to occur this spring. Since beginning the entire remediation process, the DEC has been working southwards, starting at the creek’s northern- most point.
“The temporary fabric structure and water treatment plant at the high school are currently scheduled to be removed by the end of this spring,” the release reads.