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Feb 6, 2012 4:58 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Board Will Need Guarantees For Money For Mill Pond

Feb 8, 2012 11:13 AM

The Southampton Town Board says it wants some financial guarantees before setting aside money for an experimental project aiming to improve the water quality in Mill Pond, one the Town Trustees think will be an effective, though expensive, solution.

Before the Town Board will start looking for a way to appropriate the $259,000 the Trustees are asking for to make the first of two large-scale applications of a clay compound called Phoslock, to the lake, there will have to be some assurances that the town’s money will not be wasted on a failed effort, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told the Trustees and Water Mill residents recently.

“If the town is going to approve an investment of that size, I think we would be remiss if we don’t ask for some kind of warranty,” Ms. Throne-Holst told the Trustees and their consultants at a Town Board work session meeting on January 27. “You buy a car, you ask for a warranty because it might be a great car and nobody has had a problem with it,” the supervisor said, “but you might be the one who has a problem.”

Phoslock, a chemically manipulated clay compound that is expected to bond to phosphorous in the pond’s water and starve off the choking algae blooms that stain it green each summer, has never been used in the United States on the scale of the proposed application to Mill Pond. Developed by the Australian government for addressing phosphorous-based water quality problems, it has been used widely overseas and in Canada to address problems with damaging algae blooms in lakes and reservoirs.

The Trustees conducted a test of the compound in a narrow offshoot of Mill Pond this fall, and while they acknowledge that the conditions in that creek are very different from the larger pond, the results encouraged them to press forward with the broader application.

“We are absolutely positive that this will be the solution for the pond, or we wouldn’t have gone this far,” Trustee Fred Havemeyer said. “There are no negatives. We are very confident that this will be the answer.”

Ms. Throne-Holst asked if there was some reduction in the possible price since the application would be the first in the United States and could be a foot in the door for the company hoping to sell Phoslock to other municipalities. The Trustees said the Phoslock used in the test application in the fall was donated by the company as an incentive, but that the price, totaling more than $400,000 for the first two years’ applications, was probably firm.

Consultant Jim Walker, of Inter-Science Research Associates, said that it did not appear that any state or county environmental grants would apply to the project either. He said that the state Department of Environmental Conservation would impose some form of performance assurances before it approved the project.

“There’s no way we can guarantee it, so I think it makes sense [to have some assurances],” Trustee Jon Semlear said. “You can’t spend $259,000 and have them walk away from it and say, ‘We thought it would work.’”

This week, the Trustees offered to trade $50,000 worth of sand from Trustee-owned beaches that the town could use to rebuild dunes at Mecox Beach in Water Mill in exchange for the commensurate amount of funding for the Phoslock application.

The Trustees have set an April 1 target date for the application, hoping to capture the phosphorous in the pond while it lays in the sediment at the bottom of the pond. A second application would be made in the late winter or early spring of 2013 as well, followed by much smaller annual applications, costing an estimated $30,000 each, for an indefinite period into the future to address influxes of new phosphorous from septic systems of houses along the pond, stormwater runoff and seeping groundwater loaded with phosphorous from past decades of agricultural fertilization.

Ms. Throne-Holst noted that the project should have been proposed last year so that the money could have been included in the town’s capital projects budget for 2012, allowing officials to borrow the money. But if there is some kind of performance protection devised by the Trustees or the company, she said, the Town Board would try to find a way to fit the money into the budget.

Water Mill resident Steve Abramson proposed that the Trustees could possibly front the money for the project from their reserves and the town could plan to reimburse them in 2013.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the town would also need some sort of documentation that Phoslock was the best option for treating the pond, the only version of the compound and that there aren’t other companies selling it, perhaps at a cheaper price.

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Experimental? "Phoslock was invented and developed by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national scientific organization which has been dedicated to the practical application of knowledge and science for society and industry since 1928 and today ranks in the top one percent of world research bodies in twelve of its twenty-two research fields."

Phoslock is far from experimental. It has been used successfully for years in lakes and reservoirs ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Feb 8, 12 12:11 PM