Mr. Collins said the DEC hasn’t opened a new lab to test shellfishing samples, in part because it’s an extensive process for the FDA to certify laboratories.
But, he said, it would be far more cost effective if the DEC would properly staff the lab they already have.
Mr. Bredemeyer, who helps oversee the town’s volunteer water sampling program, said his volunteers have also been struggling with failed communication with the DEC.
For example, they lost a whole round of sampling after a nor’easter last year because the DEC didn’t inform them that they’d changed the manufacturer of sampling bottles accepted at the lab.
“The rules and regulations from the FDA are there to help us so our product can move interstate and internationally,” he said. “This is not something we can solve at the town level. We do not have regulatory authority to change state-level programs.”
“Most times, the lab is so overloaded they can’t take in our samples for analysis,” he added. “When we have a shellfishing body closed, we need to identify the source of problem. If it’s a genuine problem, we should be able to figure out how to solve it.”
County Legislator Al Krupski said the county and the town had been “relentless” in their stormwater runoff abatement efforts.
“As a result, we should have had a lot more openings,” he said. “It’s not just commercial. It’s quality of life. People should be able to go out and get a clam if the water’s clean.”
“We need to get all the baymens’ associations together and get the attention of our state representatives,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “They can get the DEC. We cannot.”
Councilman Bill Ruland said he would be willing to take the issue further.
“If this was me personally, I would say, we’ll sue the suckers,” he said.
Town Attorney Martin Finnegan was happy to weigh in on that.
“The effort to attack it on the science has been exhausted,” he said. “Sometimes things can happen when the right person gets the message. Let’s get on the phone and see what can happen.”
“This agency was put together for the peoples’ protection. They’re going to manage with a ‘better safe than sorry’ mentality,” said Councilman Bob Ghosio. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to push for them to get the resources they need to make this happen. We spent a lot of money, time and effort to make things better and we’re not reaping the benefit of it.”
“It should be an easy sell,” said Mr. Collins. “With real programmatic change at the state level, everybody is going to benefit. All of this will generate jobs and taxable revenue.”
“This has been festering for too long,” said Mr. Krupski. “The county should have a great stake in this. They run underwater leasing in the bay and are talking about raising kelp and macroalgae commercially. It’s a source of economic development here. As far as how much influence we’ll have on the state… that’s a completely seperate bureaucracy.”