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Dec 16, 2008 5:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Biologist offers alternative theory to Mill Pond fish-kill

Dec 16, 2008 5:46 PM

A Michigan State University-based biologist on Monday offered yet another theory to Southampton Town Trustees as to why a massive fish kill occurred in Mill Pond in Water Mill this fall.

Dr. Chris Knud-Hansen stated that, in his opinion, the September fish kill was caused by anoxic water at the bottom of the pond mixing with oxygenated water near the surface immediately after a cold spell, a lethal one-two punch that asphyxiated the fish. He suggested that the removal of water lilies, and the constant circulation of water to improve the flow of oxygen in the pond, will help prevent future fish kills.

Dr. Knud-Hansen’s findings contradicted previous conclusions shared by limnologist Dr. Lee Lyman and marine biologist Dr. Chris Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Dr. Lyman’s findings in October suggest that the fish kill was caused by excess phosphorous levels, which led to a blue-green algal bloom. He stated that when the blue-green algae died, the decomposition process asphyxiated the fish.

Additionally, Dr. Gobler has previously stated that excess levels of nitrogen contributed to an algal bloom, causing the fish kill.

The Michigan State University-based biologist had examined samples of the pond in his laboratory and said he did not find evidence of a blue-green algal bloom. He noted that such a bloom would have given the water samples a distinct odor.

“The assumption that an algal bloom did occur with an outside nutrient input is false,” Dr. Knud-Hansen told the Town Trustees during their meeting on Monday afternoon.

Tim Davis, a student of Dr. Gobler who attended Monday’s meeting on his professor’s behalf, disputed Dr. Knud-Hansen’s conclusions. “[Mill Pond] has been site of bacterial blooms since 2005,” he said.

The Trustees said that they are not yet ready to decide which theory is correct.

“I realize that the findings today [are] totally contrary to the findings of Dr. Gobler,” Trustee President Jon Semlear said following Dr. Knud-Hansen’s presentation. “We are not giving credence to anyone’s presentation. Our job is to collect information.”

Trustee Fred Havemeyer stressed that no one, as of yet, has proven that there are toxins or poisons in Mill Pond. He said the Trustees have conducted their own investigation and will announce their findings in January.

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