Dead bunker line the shore at Riverhead Moose Lodge last year. File photo: Peter Blasl

Riverhead Town will begin removing dead bunker from local shores. The town board passed a resolution last night authorizing the dead fish removal “under emergency circumstances.” Tens of thousands of dead bunker have been collecting on the shores of the Peconic River and western Flanders Bay following two massive bunker die-offs in recent weeks.

The board hired Thomas Sweat of Greenport last night to do the work and authorized spending up to $30,000 to remove the dead bunker, which have been the source of a growing number of odor complaints to town officials.

Residents who bag the dead fish in plastic bags can have it removed by the town’s garbage district contractor, Supervisor Sean Walter said Monday.

The dead fish haul brought in by the town contractor will likely be buried at the town’s landfill site on Youngs Avenue, the supervisor said. The state DEC, which regulates the landfill, has signed off on the plan, he said. The dead fish will be composted with lime to neutralize the odor and buried deep enough so it won’t present a problem to area residents.

The landfill has been capped and closed, but the town maintains a yard waste composting area adjacent to the capped area. The dead fish will be buried there, Walter said.

The supervisor dismissed the idea of allowing farmers to spread the dead fish on their farm fields. That was done with dead fish pulled out of Meetinghouse Creek in 2009, during the last massive bunker kill. It is an old agricultural practice that was quite common long ago, but the smell from the fish on the field incensed neighboring residents.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio moved to amend the resolution offered by Councilman James Wooten to put a $30,000 cap on spending for the cleanup.

“We should have planned for this so it wouldn’t be an emergency,” Giglio said.

The comment rankled the supervisor, whom Giglio is looking to unseat in this year’s election. “As supervisor, how am I supposed to plan for something like this?” he asked her.

“I don’t think we’ll get anywhere near $30,000,” Walter said. “The wind could blow them all out into the bay again tomorrow.”

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.