Dust In The Wind

Betsy and Neal Martin on the deck behind their house on Conklin Lane. Independent/ T. E. McMorrow

The farmer and the owner of the field that was the source of the recent Amagansett dust bowl-like clouds that swept over Main Street have agreed to immediately remediate the conditions. In addition, the East Hampton Town Board approved a contract January 17 to have the talcum powder-like dust that Amagansett
residents have been breathing in tested.

Two residents who live next to the field, Betsy and Neal Martin, were relieved when they learned about the actions being taken.

“It has never been this bad,” Betsy Martin said about the blowing dust. “Nobody should have to live like this.”

The open 33 acres of farmland is composed of several lots, which, according to town records, are owned by various members of the Bistrian family.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc updated the board January 17 before its vote on funding the dust testing. Before the supervisor spoke, an Amagansett resident, Daniel Mongan, challenged the board to act. “What’s an asthma case worth to you?” Mongan asked the board.

Van Scoyoc said that, just before the meeting, he had “met with the farmer who planted that crop” that led to the dust bowl conditions, as well as with the property owner. While Van Scoyoc did not identify them by name, the Martins said the farmer is Peter Dankowski, and the owner is Barry Bistrian. Corey Humphrey, district manager of Suffolk County’s water and soil conservation
department, also attended that meeting.

The farmer agreed to purchase an abundant quantity of straw, which will then be shredded, the supervisor said. The moistened straw will be dispersed over the field. Then, snow fencing will be placed across it at intervals to keep the straw in place. “This method has been used on other farms and has been effective at retaining soils,” Van Scoyoc said, adding that the county favored that approach.

In addition, Dankowski has agreed not to plant potatoes in the future. Both farmer and landowner were “dismayed” at what happened, the supervisor said.

Dust is not the only thing coming off the fields. During heavy rains, water floods off the field, and heads toward Main Street. “It runs like a river,” said Neal Martin. “It ends up in the Smith house,” a historic house to the west.

The Martins said that Bistrian has been working on constructing a berm to prevent flooding, as evidenced by nine six-foot-tall mounds of dirt along the property line dividing the field and the Martin house.

After Van Scoyoc spoke to the board, Councilman Jeffrey Bragman suggested a change to the zoning code to prevent similar situations. “This is an issue that should not divide the farming community from the residential community. We value our farms,” he said.

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