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Jun 8, 2011 10:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Trustees Split On Mill Pond Fix

Jun 8, 2011 11:05 AM

The Southampton Town Trustees, split on how exactly to proceed with addressing water quality problems in Mill Pond, have agreed to ask the state for permits for three separate options, two of which are chemical treatments that could take more than a year for the state to issue an approval.

Faced with a host of pollution sources that have choked the pond with intense algae blooms in recent summers—and killed thousands of fish in 2008—the Trustees have been trying to find a way to restrain the blooms even though the pollution that feeds them is unlikely to be eliminated from the system in the foreseeable future.

The options include the application of two chemically engineered minerals, one called Alum, the other Phoslock. They would help trap in the bottom of the pond the nutrients the algae rely on that are carried to the pond in groundwater and rain runoff polluted with fertilizers and septics. The third option would deploy a system of aerators around the bottom of the pond and release natural enzymes that the system’s creators say would slowly dissolve the thick layer of organic material—from rotting leaves to waterfowl feces—that carpets the bottom and releases nutrients into the water, spiking the algae blooms.

Residents who live around the pond and are eager to see some action, were dejected on Monday when told by the Trustees that state officials had said the requisite permits for the use of the two mineral treatments could take as long as 18 months to acquire.

“We thought it was going to be a couple of months,” resident Steve Abramson said. “We were looking forward to a treatment that would clear this water body by summer.”

The Trustees themselves were somewhat divided on which process holds the most promise for results, in any time frame. Trustees Fred Havemeyer and Ed Warner Jr. supported the recommendation of Lee Lyman, a lake ecology expert the Trustees have hired to examine the problems in the lake and devise a solution, to use the Alum treatment.

“Alum seems to be the most practical, both in terms of cost and application,” Mr. Havemeyer said. “It will clear the water within hours, according to the experts. But it’s 12 to 18 months for the permits. There is no quicker way, we’re told. I would like to see it next week, but on the good side, as carpenters say: measure twice, cut once. Make sure you get it right.”

The process would require annual deposits of Alum, a derivative of aluminum, into the lake for many years. The mineral would bond to nutrients and hold them to the lake bottom. Mr. Lyman said he did not think the aerators and enzymes system, devised and sold by a company called LakeSavers, would work in a shallow water body like Mill Pond. The three other Trustees were reluctant to give up on the LakeSavers system and asked that the board file a permit request for the system in parallel with its applications for Alum and Phoslock. The DEC has indicated that the LakeSavers system would likely see a quicker permitting review because it does not involve the introduction of chemicals to the pond.

“I would like to apply for the LakeSavers,” Trustee Bill Pell said. “I’d prefer to try that first, before we put chemicals in the water.”

Trustee Jon Semlear agreed that the LakeSaver system should be applied for also but said he was comfortable going forward with Alum treatment. The board unanimously agreed to pursue all three applications simultaneously.

The Trustees also acknowledged that whichever path is taken it is going to be imperative in the long term for the town to drastically reduce the amount of nutrients that reach the pond in stormwater runoff from roads and lawns and through seeping septic systems. Mr. Havemeyer said that legislation and enforcement are likely going to be the only way to address the problem.

“Whatever is done an effort is going to have to be made by the homeowners and by the town to minimize the nutrients coming into this lake,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re just treading water.”

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