Amagansett Dust Bowl Days Gone Bye-bye?

Betsy Martin’s property was covered in dust from a neighboring farm field in Amagansett.
Betsy and Neal Martin on the deck behind their house on Conklin Lane. Independent/ T. E. McMorrow

The dust that created the recent Amagansett Dust Bowl is non-toxic and safe, unpleasant though the sometimes two to three inches deep accumulation is.

According to the office of East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, the problem appears to have been contained, the supervisor said in a statement released February 1. Neighbors, however, are still skeptical, including Betsy Martin, who lives on a property adjacent to the farm field from where the spinning, swirling dust clouds rose.

The inches-deep dust blew off of the roughly 33-acre farm field owned by the Bistrian family and currently farmed by Peter Dankowski. The parcel sits just north of Amagansett Main Street, and south of the LIRR track. Potatoes had been planted there for the 2018 season, and were harvested late, due to the wet weather conditions in the area. The late harvest meant a late cover crop planting. A cover crop is planted to hold down the soil and control erosion. That crop didn’t take and the swirling dust bowl ensued.

The town contracted with a company, FPM Environmental, at an expenditure of $2500, to test for contaminants. In return, FPM took soil samples from three sites.

The three test locations were at the northeastern edge of the municipal parking lot. They appear, on the aerial view of the site provided by the town, to be in a triangular pattern about 100 feet apart from each other. No pesticide contaminants were found in the samples, and no significant levels of any form of metal. Pesticides tested for included DDT, Aldrin, and various Endosulfans and BHCs.

The dust that accumulated on Amagansett Main Street has been removed, the supervisor said. Also, in cooperation with the farmer and the Bistrians, the field has been covered with straw and lined with snow fencing to keep the surface dust in place.

“We share residents’ concerns about the recent dust storms in Amagansett. I am gratified that our agreed-upon solution appears to be working and am pleased that the town board was able to work together to achieve this result. We will continue to monitor the field conditions and take necessary actions to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” said Van Scoyoc.

However, Martin is taking a wait and see approach. The deck, cars, and house she shares with her husband, Neal, were covered, during the height of the dust storm, by a blanket of dust. So far, the blowing dust has stopped. However, the weather has been quite different than it was during the dust storm. When the field dries out, and the wind starts blowing, it will be the true test of the combined efforts of the town, the farmer, and the landowners, she said.

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