Sag Harbor’s only public bathing spot, Havens Beach, is on the road to recovery after 20 years of discussion and planning.
“It looks like it will be taken care of before the beach season,” Mayor Brian Gilbride said on Tuesday. Incidents of eye and ear infections as well as skin rashes have been attributed to a dip in the water there, especially within a drainage ditch where children enjoy playing.
A project to catch and treat wastewater, which is blamed for contamination, is expected to begin shortly. Stormwater now courses through some 20 acres of the village before running into the ditch and ending up in Shelter Island Sound, and tests of the water at Havens have been positive for bacteria, including fecal coliform. The beach has been closed periodically after heavy rains.
The present 24,000-square-foot drainage ditch and system will be reconfigured to include bio-filtration with a “smart” sponge. Native plant species will be incorporated to filter waste.
Mr. Gilbride said he received the okay from the State Department of Environmental Conservation last week to advertise for bids on the project. The Army Corps of Engineers has already approved the plan.
The mayor wants to “get them going right away,” he said. The village board will review bids on Wednesday, hoping to award the contract at its next public meeting, on March 12. Some work has already begun, including the installation of catch basins on Hempstead Street.
The excavation of 1,500 cubic yards of material will be the next step, to be refilled with an equal amount of plain sand, which will act as a filtering agent. “When you take the muck out, it will definitely have an odor,” warned the mayor, but he thinks the excavation will be finished in the weeks of chilly weather that remain, when many houses are closed. “Some concrete structures by the bay” will also be involved, said Mr. Gilbride.
The project had a recent four-to-five-month setback when the state required sample tests of material from the drainage ditch to be analyzed. After analysis, the D.E.C. determined that the material could be deposited at the dump, just like road sweepings.
The village has allocated $295,000 for the project, with a grant from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program for up to $147,500 more. “Let’s get it going,” Mr. Gilbride said on Tuesday.