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On Water Testing for 2023

Thu, 03/30/2023 - 12:06
As part of a water quality study authorized by the East Hampton Town Trustees, an autonomous surface vehicle will collect data in Accabonac Harbor, above, and in southern Three Mile Harbor.
Durell Godfrey

The East Hampton Town Trustees voted on Monday to allocate $83,160 for the 2023 water quality and bottomlands assessment of waters under their jurisdiction.

Since 2013, Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences has led the annual assessment for the trustees, whose concern about water quality was heightened following the appearance of dense blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, in Georgica Pond. Dr. Gobler delivered a mostly upbeat report on his 2022 findings to the trustees on March 13.

John Aldred of the trustees told his colleagues on Monday that he, along with Jim Grimes, Bill Taylor, and Susan McGraw-Keber, had met with Dr. Gobler to discuss this year’s program. There will be new initiatives in 2023, Mr. Aldred said. The assessment will cost $8,316 more than Dr. Gobler’s 2022 evaluation, which the six trustees present agreed was reasonable given the additional work to be conducted. 

The survey work conducted for the trustees for the last 10 years will continue. That involves measurements of temperature, salinity, chlorophyll a, dissolved oxygen, and harmful algal blooms including Alexandrium and Cochlodinium in salt water and blue-green in fresh water. Dr. Gobler will also “look at total nitrogen, nitrate, and ammonia concentrations,” Mr. Aldred said, and compare nitrate concentrations to the Peconic Estuary Partnership’s goal of .4 milligrams per liter. Microbial source tracking, used to identify the origins of microbial contamination, will happen at three stations in Accabonac Harbor and four others in Three Mile Harbor.

An autonomous surface vehicle will collect data in southern Three Mile Harbor, Accabonac Harbor, and, if time permits, Hog Creek and Northwest Creek. Dr. Gobler will also lead a sediment survey in Accabonac Harbor. “We did sort of a creekwide analysis last year,” Mr. Aldred said. “This year we’re looking at doing 20 stations, concentrated in the approach to the Louse Point launching ramp.” This would be for possible use by the Suffolk County Public Works Department in future dredging there, he said.

New this year will be a fine-scale water quality analysis in Napeague Harbor including “the typical water quality parameters,” Mr. Aldred said, as well as a sediment survey comprising 20 sites. The autonomous vehicle will also do continuous surveys of underwater terrain and water depth there, and two temperature and oxygen sensors will take continuous readings throughout the summer. This, he said, will provide “preliminary data to moving forward with the assessment of the Napeague east inlet reopening,” a long-held plan.

Also new in 2023, Dr. Gobler will collate and review New York State Department of Environmental Conservation fecal coliform data and compare it to data that he has recently collected, Mr. Aldred said.

Finally, Dr. Gobler will respond, on request, to unique occurrences such as harmful algal blooms, visiting sites to collect data.

“We’ve been going about this in an orderly fashion, working our way along, and developing data sets that are really meaningful,” Bill Taylor said of the annual assessments. “I’m fully in favor of us going for this.” All of the trustees attending the meeting voted to approve the expenditure.

Dr. Gobler will deliver his annual lecture, “State of the Bays 2023: Love Where You Live,” on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Duke Lecture Hall, inside Chancellors Hall on the Stony Brook Southampton campus. The lecture will also be available by Zoom.

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