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Sep 8, 2010 11:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Scientist proposes poisoning fish in Mill Pond to spark turn around

Sep 8, 2010 11:42 AM

A consultant for the Southampton Town Board of Trustees told the board and a small group of Water Mill community leaders on Tuesday that the best hope for restoring the health of the hamlet’s centerpiece freshwater lake is ridding it of destructive carp—even if it means using a poison to kill all the fish in the lake.

Consultant Jim Walker said that the Trustees have a rare opportunity to rid Mill Pond of carp and restore ecological balance to the pond because of the massive fish kill there two years ago. The pond essentially lost all of its large predator fish during the mass die-off in early September 2008, particularly largemouth bass and chain pickerel. Since that die-off, population levels of carp and goldfish have probably expanded greatly. The fish, Mr. Walker said, destroy oxygen-producing plant life and stir up nitrogen-rich sediment in the bottom of the pond, helping add to the conditions that feed the large algae blooms in the pond every summer and which led to the fish kill.

“This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Mr. Walker said during the roundtable discussion at Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon. “If we let it go by the wayside, the pond is going to be green for a long time ... If we get the carp out, in a few short years we’d have a pond that was much cleaner and healthy and stocked with bluegills and bass.”

Mr. Walker—who helped restore two ponds off Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton by removing carp to let plant species return, and reintroducing an ecological balance of predator and prey species—proposed that some of the fish could be removed from the pond by net. But he said a chemical poison, called rotenone, would be needed to ensure that all of them were killed. The poison would kill other fish species as well, he admitted, but added that because the pond now does not have healthy populations of other fish—only a few species of small fish and minnows remain in any numbers—the timing is good. Rotenone has been used extensively to kill off unwanted fish species, most notably Asian carp in rivers leading to the Great Lakes.

Mr. Walker said that the State Department of Environmental Conservation would approve the use of the chemical under controlled circumstances. The small channel that connects Mill Pond to Mecox Bay would have to be sealed off to ensure that none of the poison escaped the pond waters. The shoreline would have to be secured to ensure that no animals or pets went in the water while the poison was active, a period of only about 24 hours, he said.

Several residents and Trustees said they were not in favor of using poison in Mill Pond.

“The idea of poisoning the fish in Mill Pond, with it leading to Mecox Bay and all the fish and millions of dollars of shellfish in there, I just think there are too many unanswered questions,” Trustee Jon Semlear said. “It’s a residential area. I don’t think I could support that.” Mr. Semlear and Mr. Walker agreed, however, that simply trying to catch all the carp in the 6-acre pond with nets would be impossible.

Trustee Fred Havemeyer, who oversaw an effort several years ago to rid Lake Agawam in Southampton Village of carp, said he would be in favor of an aggressive attempt to catch as many carp from the pond as possible, and to introduce large numbers of predator fish species that would feed on the carp and return a natural balance to the pond.

A report released last month by Christopher Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook University, on the water conditions in the pond before, during and after the fish kill fingered elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the pond’s waters for sparking annual blooms of blue-green algae, which coats the surface of the pond with a green scum. The 2008 fish kill was caused by a cold snap that killed the large algae bloom, sucking oxygen out of the water as it decayed.

A Massachusetts lake and pond expert hired by the Trustees, Lee Lyman, has recommended that the Trustees treat Mill Pond with alum, a mineral that would bond with molecules of phosphorus and nitrogen and sink to the bottom of the pond. Adding alum would cost approximately $30,000 per treatment, twice a year, for three to five years, Mr. Walker estimated.

But Mr. Walker said that without killing off the carp, which root in the bottom for food and stir up sediments, the alum treatments would not be enough to clear the pond.

He said that finding a way to discourage thousands of geese that sit on the pond in winter would also help the situation, as goose manure adds greatly to nitrogen levels in the pond.

Tom Halsey, a farmer who lives near the pond, said the solutions proposed would mean nothing in the long run if the residents who live on the pond do not make an effort to help by reducing fertilizer use and upgrading septic systems—factors that he has blamed for the problem—like residents around Little Fresh Pond in North Sea have done.

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Just how much did this so-called consultant get paid to come up with the idea of killing off the pond life to start over? The problem is nitrogen from cesspools that have inevitably run out of leachfields and into the water table. Not the fish some dull consultant wants to murder.
By Sparkibew (28), southampton on Sep 9, 10 5:58 PM
And your credentials in this area are.....?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Sep 9, 10 7:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
On initial question -- does Mr. Walker still work for the environmental consulting firm on Nugent Street in Southampton?

This looks like a real Pandora's Box IMO, but it would be helpful to know how far to cast the net of concern here.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 9, 10 6:02 PM
Yes, he is an employee at Inter-Science who is highly qualified. Of course, there is a big financial incentive for the Trustees to go along with anything he says. I'm surprised a solution has not been put forth by Dr. Gobler.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 10, 10 9:44 AM
Forget the consultant. Forget the DEC. Listen to Tom Halsey. His common sense is exactly what is needed.
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Sep 9, 10 7:39 PM
Thank you for the question Mr. Wheeler, have faith else prove me wrong. As far as Mr. Halsey goes, it would be interesting to see who is using more fertilizer in Water Mill than he - that water funnels all the way down Deerfield and into Mill Pond via underground ''plumbing''. The hamlet might be well served to have an independent board review this situation.
By Sparkibew (28), southampton on Sep 9, 10 8:07 PM
My kid keeps killing off goldfish by putting too much food in the bowl. Can't we just do that? Go to Pet Co with a wheel barrow ...
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 9, 10 8:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
I've got this absolutely INSANE idea that would probably NEVER work.

How about some of us locals go open season on carp, and enjoy some great afternoons fishing. Believe it or not, there are some great carp recipes out there.

In addition, what say we head over to Big Fresh, and work on a catch and release program. As in catch predator fish in Big Fresh, and release them in Mill Pond.

Nope, that would NEVER work...
Sep 9, 10 10:54 PM appended by Mr. Z
By the way, I have two Minn-Kota electric motors. Anyone have a nice 12 foot flat bottom duck boat?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 9, 10 10:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 9, 10 11:05 PM
Them carp sure are tasty! ()num..num..num..
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Sep 9, 10 11:40 PM
Let's hope the Trustees vote this idea down. The lake will be toxic for at least 24 hours and ALL wildlife has to be kept away, Good luck with that, imagine the non target species that will die because of this misguided efforrt. The carp can be seined or gill netted, they all won't be caught, but it's possible to put a serious dent in the population. Has any research been done on the Solar Bees that were installed in the lake? Their purpose was to stir up the water,hmmmm, kinda like what the mad ...more
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Sep 10, 10 8:19 AM
just get Timmy Bishop to go talk at the fish.....he'll bore them to death!
By uncleronk (136), southold on Sep 10, 10 8:31 AM
Why does Mr. Walker not mention the effects this chemical can have on other wildlife in the pond? Muskrats, Frogs, Turtles, Migratory Birds etc.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 10, 10 9:46 AM
3 members liked this comment
Why don't we put Obama in charge of Increasing the polution in the pond. That is a sure way to reduce levels to never before seen lows.

By Sparkibew (28), southampton on Sep 10, 10 1:47 PM
Using poison when there are natural alternatives such as minimizing/treating stormwater runoff, prohhibiting the use of chemical fertilizers around the pond, and re-stocking with predator fish, is just ludicrous. This "quick fix" is certainly not a "green" solution and should be taken off the table. it's just not right.
By Hamptons Resident (4), Westhampton on Sep 10, 10 1:54 PM
Stop messing with Mother Nature!! Have a publicized "free fishing" event. Offer a prize for the biggest carp caught. Have environmentally conscious groups set up tables at the fishing event with flyers that discuss the hazzards of lawn fertilizers, old septic tanks, and EDUCATE the residents about why the fish were killed in 2008, how the pond is changing, and how to restore it through leaving it alone - no chemicals, ever!! FIRE that consultant, Jim Walker, and make him give his payment ...more
By saillyn500 (4), Lindenhurst on Sep 10, 10 2:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
We must sieze the day and make sure this doesn't happen! Carp Diem!!
By Sparkibew (28), southampton on Sep 10, 10 4:07 PM
This is an environmental disaster waiting to happen in my personal opinion.

Perhaps all actors on the stage should post $100 million dollar bonds (each) to guaranty that all goes according to plan? Have all species in the larger upland watershed area of this pond been considered? For years or perhaps decades?

SH Town Trustees (both as a board and individually)
SH Town Board (ditto)
Inter-Science (according to Nature's post above)
Mr. Walker (and all other principals/employees ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 10, 10 4:39 PM
PS -- Have there been any results posted about the necropsy of the beached whale from last Spring in East Hampton?


Why not?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 10, 10 4:47 PM
Your $100 million bond is quite arbitrary and while I see your point - quite extreme of a proposition (though, some would argue poisoning the fish is equally extreme).

The Town does not require bonds for anything other than restoration projects or road improvement projects (for example, the construction of a cul-de-sac to Town spec by a developer for a new subdivision - or re-vegetation as part of a site plan).

A Part I, II EIS would be required, and it of course would trigger ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 10, 10 6:10 PM
Thanks Nature for your informed replies.

IMO the potential damage (through the next two decades +/-) is way more than $100 million. At least the hope is that the various governmental bodies (and individual members) will wake up and say publicly that they are willing to put this amount "on the table," even they are not required to post individual bonds.

Has anyone considered just letting Mill Pond find its own balance with NO human intervention?

One recalls that his body ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 10, 10 6:22 PM
Mill Pond can't "find its own balance" because it is so heavily influenced by humans (i.e. runoff from adjacent ag fields, and leaching septic pools). We as humans need to decide if we want to play the risky game of "creating" a balance, or tackling the problems we have caused and eliminating them.

While it is nice of the farmer to point out that new residential development along the pong has been detrimental (in nitrogen inputs from septic system and lawn fertilizer) the farm runoff is ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 11, 10 12:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
PBR - Mill pond in it's natural state was not originally even a pond, hence it's name. The stream was damned to provide hydro power for the mill which used to be located there. If we really want to make it "natural" again, I guess we would drain it and let it operate as a stream once again.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 11, 10 4:10 PM
Nature - the elimination of Walter Bundy's position was necessary as he was not worth the money spent on him due to his poor lack of action. The Town has failed to create adequate storm water infrastructure under his watch, due to the incompetence we see in other areas. It was a welcome sight to see Walter go as he was useless, more bureaucracy is not the answer to our problems. If the Town would get on the storm water issue and get in compliance with the EPA guidelines, the runoff wouldn't be going ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 11, 10 4:27 PM
Nature, the "nature" of a bond is to require that each poster of a bond step up to the plate to take PERSONAL responsibility for ALL damage. If the total damage caused by this poisonous suggestion is less than all the bonds posted by everyone, the amounts to be paid would be scaled down as needed.

A bond is only a guaranty, not a promise to pay the whole amount.

Although, with punitive damages rolled in, perhaps each board member of the Town Board, Trustees, principals of Inter-Science, ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 13, 10 7:16 PM
If it is the place on Nugent street, they are actually one of the most accomplished outfits out here. Theirs is the highest level of expertise so maybe they have other ideas and would be willing to share.
By Sparkibew (28), southampton on Sep 10, 10 5:24 PM
Accomplished how? In obtaining permits for construction?
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 11, 10 4:12 PM


By pride of bonac (42), easthampton on Sep 11, 10 1:07 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By pride of bonac (42), easthampton on Sep 11, 10 1:09 PM

By pride of bonac (42), easthampton on Sep 11, 10 1:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
I can't believe what I just read. Poisoning Mill Pond. Are they insane?
By linative (7), Lugoff on Sep 12, 10 1:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
I've been kayaking in Mill Pond multiple times. It’s loaded with wildlife such as turtles and many different species of birds that feed on the carp, including the osprey and cormorants. There is no way to keep birds from landing in the pond and eating the poisoned fish. Poisoning this pond would have a profound effect on all wildlife in the area. It’s a horrible idea!!
By WM11976 (12), Water Mill on Sep 12, 10 9:35 AM
agreed. It must be done in a controlled manner. Unfortunately I dont think thats possible. Open Carp and Goldfish season..bring you shotguns
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Sep 17, 10 9:45 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Sep 12, 10 12:35 PM
3 members liked this comment
Well, let's see what "our" Town government will do with this proposal and with these as well:

-- Tuckahoe strip mall
-- Rambo condo proposal (overlap with SH Village)

This proposal is ostensibly in front of the Town Trustees, but the various issues raised MUST include the approval of the Town Board. This is not just some minor "pond" project.

The potential impact of this project could be devasting!

Once again, a vote of confidence is requested from the Town ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 13, 10 7:00 PM
PS -- please see reply to Nature at 7:16 above.

An Environmental Impact Statement is required here IMO -- at the highest level of review.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 13, 10 7:21 PM
We don't need your opinion for an EIS. It is required under NY State Law (SEQRA).

And further, I think you are oversensitive. The article doesn't state that the Trustees think this is a good idea, or that they are moving forward to approve it. In fact, the President of the Trustees stated he is against the idea of using poison... so maybe settle down a bit?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 13, 10 9:59 PM
PS2 -- If this proposal goes through, will the federal EPA have to extend the No Discharge area to protect The East End?


All ground-water is connected!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 13, 10 8:00 PM
Maybe we can get those same scientists to look at politicians, lawyers and developers on the East End.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Sep 13, 10 11:39 PM

Anyone even considering using poison in the pond should be ousted -

By pride of bonac (42), easthampton on Sep 14, 10 8:31 PM
Hopefully this will not turn into a huge Plie of Carp!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 15, 10 7:39 PM