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Riverhead’s cardboard boat races postponed due to massive fish kills, Peconic River’s poor water quality

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(Updated: 10:30 a.m.) Riverhead’s annual cardboard boat races have been postponed to Aug. 23, due to the recent massive fish kills that prompted an advisory yesterday from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

The popular cardboard boat races are scheduled for next Sunday, June 28.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who organizes the event with the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, said he’s discussed the issue with the cardboard boat race committee and they agreed on Aug. 23 as a new date for the popular event.

County health officials issued an advisory yesterday about swimming, bathing, boating, kayaking and canoeing in the Peconic River.

Dead bunker line the shore at Riverhead Moose Lodge Tuesday morning. Photo: Peter Blasl
Dead bunker line the shore at Riverhead Moose Lodge June 16 . Photo: Peter Blasl

“Recreating in water, even on a raft or boat, poses some potential for the skin and face to come into contact with water that may contain bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms,” the health department said. See prior story.

The health department’s advisory did not indicate when water quality might be expected to improve. A SCDHS spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Any additional fish kills could of course worsen water conditions, the supervisor said. It could happen again because schools of bunker are still in the area, Walter said.

The weekly water quality index issued by Dr. Christopher Gobler, a marine scientist at Stony Brook University, yesterday classified water conditions in Peconic River and western Flanders Bay as poor, using state and federal water quality standards. with minimum oxygen levels at zero milligrams per liter. Both water bodies are impaired by poor water clarity, bacteria and the harmful algae Gymnodinium, according to the Gobler laboratory report.

“The intensity of algal blooms in the river and magnitude of these kills are unnatural,” Gobler said in a Facebook post Tuesday, “being promoted by excessive nutrients delivered to this system.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.