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Apr 30, 2019 4:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Mayor Points To Homeowners, Heavy Rains For Lake Agawam Fish Kill

Southampton Village and Southampton Town officials stand in front of a new drain on Jobs Lane, which was installed as part of a collaborative project to improve the health of Lake Agawam and paid for using Community Preservation Fund money. (Pictured Left to Right: Michael Irving, Gary Goleski, Janice Scherer, Lisa Kombrink and Jay Schneiderman)GREG WEHNER
May 1, 2019 11:16 AM

Heavy rains that battered the East End washed recently applied fertilizers and pesticides on lawns into Lake Agawam, and hundreds of fish were found dead and floating a day later, on Saturday, April 20.

“This recent deluge of rain that we had is, to me, a great justification of the concept you have of buffers along the entire shoreline,” Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving said two days later during a Village Board meeting.

Prior to his statement, Village Board members listened to a presentation about the benefits of planting buffers along the shoreline of Lake Agawam.

In May 2018, Melissa Dedovich, president of Peconic Environmental Associates, presented a proposal to the Village Board to remove a half acre of phragmites and 0.7 acre of Japanese knotweed, another invasive species, and replace the plants with a buffer of a variety of native species of shrubs, trees, perennials and grasses at the southeastern edge of Lake Agawam. The project was also put together by Ed Hollander, a local landscape architect.

She returned to the board on April 23 with a similar plan, this time with the support of Dr. Christopher Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook University, who has studied Lake Agawam for more than a decade.

The idea behind the buffers is that before rain runoff enters the lake, the plants would capture any nutrients and use them to their benefit.

The Gin Lane spot where Ms. Dedovich is looking to add a buffer lacks the ability to catch those nutrients.

“The very heavy rains over the weekend would certainly deliver large amounts of runoff from the watershed into the lake,” Dr. Gobler said in an email on April 21. “While the village has addressed much of the runoff from the main roads, side roads such as Gin Lane have open regions that allow runoff to directly enter the lake.”

Dr. Gobler acknowledged that hundreds of fish had been killed that weekend and said his laboratory is investigating the cause of the fish kill.

Mr. Irving, on the other hand, told the Village Board that the homeowners could be to blame. The mayor said he and Village Superintendent of Public Works Gary Goleski went around Lake Agawam to all of the homes to see if they had posted placards showing they fertilized the yard.

“Right before Easter, there were 20 homes that had placards around them,” Mr. Irving said. “Of those 20, we did pull the labels on the products they were using. All of them indicated, ‘Do not use next to aquatic areas and pay attention to flushing and heavy rains.’”

He said many of the dead fish were found in front of the homes that displayed the placards.

Dr. Gobler told board members that the village is in a different place than it was 10 years ago and has been able to make connections to the causes of the pollution in Lake Agawam.

One of the most recent projects the village has worked on to help improve the health of the lake is installing drainage rings along Jobs Lane to help capture runoff as it rushes down the road.

Mr. Goleski said on Monday that the day before the fish kill the pipe leading from the road to the northern portion of the lake was dry, suggesting the rings were doing their job and holding onto the rain water.

But if the residents do not do their part, the efforts by the village may be pointless.

Village Board member Richard Yastrzemski pointed out during the meeting that many of the people who were for the buffer project at the southeastern side of the lake were some of the same ones with the placards in front of their yards.

He said it was ironic and that the buffer really would not make a dent if the people signing off on the project were doing the wrong thing.

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Michael Irving's silly leadership killed all those fish, no one else did.
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on May 1, 19 9:38 AM
Just drain the swamp,put in some freshwater, go down to the pet store get some fish and toss them in...all fixed..all good...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 1, 19 9:45 AM
Japanese knotweed, phragmites, mugwort, purple loosestrife et al. are invading immigrants that outcompete native flora. These species should be removed and their remains incinerated. Perphaps a big, beautiful wall might be effective at keeping them out. Monocultures are ugly and unnatural!
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on May 1, 19 9:53 AM
Amazing they paid for a report from an expert that said Lake Agawam was being polluted by septic systems. Meanwhile all the locals have been saying its the run off from the street. Guess we have our answer now.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 1, 19 11:39 AM
Picture of the brains at another photo op. Can't give up the green lawns down to the lake. Next will be Shinnecock Bay. Just take a ride down Meadow Lane and see all the great GREEN sod and grass being irrigated by the clean ground water that we all need to drink.
They will pollute our waters then leave for the next pristine place. Mike, do your job and start banning some of the chemicals and fertilizer being applied near our waters...Don't be a follower, step up and lead.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 1, 19 12:28 PM
Just look at all of their happy, smiling faces. They couldn't care less about whats going on in town.
By CampHero (10), East Quogue on May 1, 19 3:08 PM
Yeah it’s clearly and always has been the massive amounts of fertilizers being dumped Onto lawns and ending up in they bays. These guys don’t care and won’t listen. Good luck everyone. Enjoy your state of the art septic systems.
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on May 1, 19 3:05 PM
if they can ban leaf blowers-good- then they can ban using pesticides and fertilizers around agawam
By BrianWilliams (87), on May 1, 19 5:23 PM
Ive got an idea. Let’s find out what killed the fish and go from there?
By CPalmer (122), Southampton on May 1, 19 6:26 PM
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 1, 19 7:58 PM
Ocean Friendly gardens help to filter out pollutants. Eastern Long Island Surfrider Foundation was involved in the installation of one in Amagansett. Time to incorporate these gardens with native plants. Though certainly time to limit the fertilizer applications.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on May 2, 19 6:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
Piazza Horticultural did the plant selection, design and planting for the project as well. Besides helping to filter out pollutants, these wetland plants develop far deeper root systems than grass allowing them to absorb more water into the soil during rain events. Common sense plantings like these are a practical, affordable and beautiful solution to many of the water problems that are facing the East End.
By Enviro Guy (55), Southampton on May 2, 19 7:54 AM
Thank you Enviro Guy! I couldn't recall which landscape company was involved with the garden. I for one would like to see these gardens become the norm around here. Seems logical to have native bee and butterfly friendly plants while helping to filter out pollutants such as road run off and fecal matter.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on May 3, 19 7:09 AM
Photo op, lunch and everyone is happy...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 3, 19 2:21 PM
Enviro man do you really think plants will clean lake agawan? lol
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 4, 19 4:07 PM
SURFRIDER INTO THE SEA is a short, local film worth watching. You can find it on the Eastern Long Island Surfrider website . I hope it gives you some insight and an understanding of these gardens an how the can HELP alleviate a big problem . I know it has for me.

Plants absorb toxins in the soil. They are called Hyperaccumulators
Plants improve air quality. Photosynthesis.
Plants have healing properties. Aloe vera. Lavender. Meadow Saffron.

By toes in the water (884), southampton on May 5, 19 9:09 AM