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Jan 16, 2013 9:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Mill Pond Fix On The Calendar Again

Jan 16, 2013 10:23 AM

With a new funding source in place, Southampton Town officials are again hoping to attempt to attack chronic water quality problems in Mill Pond late this winter with an experimental chemical additive spread throughout the pond’s waters.

The town has set a target date for late February or early March for the first application of Phoslock, an engineered clay-like mineral compound, to the waters of the pond in the hope of preventing the thick algae blooms that have choked it for years from forming as waters warm in the spring. The extent of the pond’s algae problem has pushed up the deadline for action by some two months from when a typical lake would expect to see algae blooms form.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera told a group of Water Mill residents this week that town attorneys have been conducting negotiations with SePro, the company marketing Phoslock as a solution to chronic alga problems in freshwater ponds, and expect to reach an agreement that can be presented to the Town Board soon. The town has sent a new contract proposal to SePro that officials are optimistic the company will agree to, the councilwoman told the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday.

The contract, she said, would provide the town with the performance assurances that the Town Board insisted on a year ago, when it initially declined to provide funding for the Phoslock application requested by the Southampton Town Trustees, who control all the town’s freshwater ponds. The contract is also expected to indemnify the town from any unforeseen problems that arise from the use of Phoslock in the pond, another requirement of the Town Board.

Also helping to expedite the plan was the creation last fall of the Water Quality Protection Fund, a dedicated town account for funding water quality improvements. Though initially created with the express intention of helping the town address water quality problems in tidal waters degraded by residential septic systems, one of the fund’s first deposits was a $200,000 contribution earmarked specifically for water quality improvement in the Mecox Bay watershed, of which Mill Pond is a centerpiece component. The money was given to the fund late last year by a Water Mill homeowner, Richard Solomon, as mitigation for the replacement of a retaining wall at his waterfront house on Mecox Bay, which relocated the bulkhead several feet seaward into the pond.

“This is exactly the kind of thing that the water quality fund was geared toward,” Ms. Scalera said. “There were legitimate concerns the Town Board had last time and I think we’re going to address most of those in the contract. If we can find a comfort level and address the funding issue, this is something we’re going to try.”

Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer noted that there are still several key points that need to be settled very quickly if the deadline for getting the Phoslock into the pond before algae blooms start to form is to be met.

On Monday night, Ms. Scalera, members of the Town Trustees and the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee spoke with congratulatory sentiment to those among them who have championed the Phoslock application—most notably Mr. Havemeyer and CAC members Steve Abramson and Steve Lerner—as the key component to a multi-pronged solution to Mill Pond’s problems.

“It just goes to show that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Ms. Scalera said, of the decade-long push by Mr. Abramson and a small group of homeowners to find a solution to the pond’s issues.

Phoslock is a compound engineered from naturally occurring elements that bonds to molecules of phosphorous, the main food that algae feeds on, and sinks it to the bottom of the pond. Without a food source suspended in the pond’s waters, the theory goes, the thick blooms of blue-green algae will not blossom in the spring.

According to the assessment of the pond by lymnologists at SePro, the application of Phoslock, by spraying granules of the compound across the surface of the pond from a boat, will have to be done in two major doses, one year apart. Once the bulk of the pond’s phosphorous has been removed from the water column, much smaller amounts of Phoslock will likely need to be applied on a regular basis, even annually, for the foreseeable future to address additional phosphorous being brought into the pond.

To that end, the phoslock application in Mill Pond will coincide with a stormwater runoff abatement project along nearby Deerfield Road, which is already in the works. Water samples have shown that a substantial percentage of the phosphorous in the pond’s waters is deposited there in rain runoff from homes, roads and farm fields uphill of the pond along Deerfield Road.

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