Spelling Conflict Nixes School's Grant Request

The "K" in Accaboanc Harbor was dropped for the most part many years ago. No one told the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which denied a Springs School grant request thanks to the confusion.

Perhaps when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation compiled last year’s water quality assessment report for Long Island Sound, it should have hired Kevin Chabla, then a Springs eighth grader and a regional spelling bee runner-up, to write the report. The district plans a March 6 vote on issuing bonds for the installation of a state-of-the-art, nitrogen-reducing septic system to replace a malfunctioning and outdated one and had applied for a D.E.C. grant to help pay for the project. 

Officials believed they were in good standing to receive the grant because parts of the surrounding water body, Accabonac Harbor, had been identified as severely polluted. In December, however, Debra Winter, the school superintendent, announced that the grant had been denied and that after inquiring why and asking for a written explanation, she had learned that Accabonac Harbor, which the school had cited as a main reason for the nitrogen-reducing septic system, was not listed by the D.E.C as an at-risk water body. 

Baffled, Ms. Winter asked State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. for help, and he discovered that the reason the grant was denied was a spelling error. The D.E.C. had  spelled Accabonac as “Accabonack,” which was not listed as at risk.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Thiele met with the commissioner of the D.E.C. and although it was a positive meeting and he remained hopeful, he could not promise anything. 

“For me the award of the grant before the [March 6] bond vote would be extremely beneficial,” Ms. Winter said.