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Jan 11, 2012 10:35 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Trustees Want $400,000 For Broader Water Quality Effort At Mill Pond

Jan 11, 2012 10:45 AM

Satisfied with the results of a test run of an experimental chemical treatment in a small section of Mill Pond in Water Mill, the Southampton Town Trustees say they expect to move forward with plans to conduct a broader treatment early this coming spring in the entire pond.

The Trustees will pitch the details of the project to the Town Board later this month. The Town Board ultimately would have to approve issuing more than $400,000 in capital bonds to pay for the initial treatments to the entire pond.

Trustee Fred Havemeyer said this week that water samples from the treated portion of the pond, which was sectioned off from the rest of the pond with a silk curtain stretched across the mouth of a narrow channel at the pond’s northwestern corner, showed that levels of phosphorus dropped substantially after the test.

The Trustees and pond-side residents, who first introduced the Trustees to the possibility of using the clay compound, called Phoslock, to address water quality, hope that the broader application will drop phosphorous levels in the pond and prevent thick blooms of algae that have stained the pond’s waters in later summer for years. Phoslock bonds to phosphorous molecules as it settles on the bottom of the pond, preventing the phosphorous from becoming suspended in the water column, where it can fuel the algae blooms.

“In the area that we cordoned off, it virtually eliminated phosphorous from the water column,” Mr. Havemeyer said. “Water tests we’ve taken show just a scant trace of phosphorous left. It did what it was supposed to.”

Biologists from the company that conducted the initial test run with Phoslock, Connecticut-based SePRO Corp., acknowledged that suspended phosphorous levels in the pond in October were much lower than they would have been in the heat of summer, but have maintained that a broader application of the compound would have an immediate and dramatic effect on the pond’s water quality.

The use of Phoslock—granules of naturally occurring clay that have been modified to amplify their natural phosphorous adhering properties—in the entire pond would be the first time the compound has been used on a large scale in the United States. Phoslock is made by an Australian company, Phoslock Water Solutions. The company’s CEO, Eddie Edmunds, came to Mill Pond for the test run in October.

Mr. Havemeyer said that water testing by Jim Walker of Inter-Science Research Associates has shown algae blooms in the pond persisted into December, probably because of the mild late fall and early winter, and can be expected to bloom earlier than usual next summer. Because the Phoslock granules are more effective at adhering to phosphorus when it is settled on the bottom, rather than suspended in the water column, the consultants have recommended that if a Phoslock application is to be done in the entire pond in 2012, it should be done in April, rather than in June, as initially planned.

SePro engineers have estimated that it would take two years to effectively gauge precisely how much Phoslock it would take to get the pond’s phosphorous levels under control. Mr. Havemeyer said they estimated cost of the treatment would be approximately $269,000 the first year and $151,000 the second year. In October, a SePro consultant said that it would also require annual maintenance treatments of Phoslock, costing about $35,000 per year, into the foreseeable future.

Phosphorous is a common ingredient in fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals and is almost perpetually carried into the pond by rainwater runoff from nearby farm fields, lawns and roadways. The external inputs are amplified by decaying organic material within the pond itself, like algae and plants that die off in winter.

The pond also suffers from high levels of nitrogen, fed into it by runoff but also by groundwater tainted with nutrients from fertilizers applied to the surrounding farm fields decades ago.

In 2008, a dense algae bloom died suddenly in the wake of a late summer cold snap. The decaying algae sucked oxygen from the pond’s waters and suffocated thousands of fish in the pond.

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