Skip to main content

Citizens Group Hears About Restoring Fort Pond in Montauk

Wed, 11/25/2020 - 12:07

A comprehensive study to develop a management plan to restore Fort Pond is warranted, those participating in a Nov. 12 webinar hosted by Concerned Citizens of Montauk were told.

Christopher Gobler, who spoke in the webinar and answered questions, leads an effort to monitor for the presence of harmful algal blooms at Fort Pond and Big Reed Pond, also in Montauk. C.C.O.M. joined with the Gobler Lab at Stony Brook Southampton's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences two years ago, after toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, appeared in Fort Pond, as it has in a number of water bodies on the South Fork and in every state in the nation.

In 2015, dogs were sickened and nearly died after swimming in Fort Pond, and the swimming portion of the MightyMan Montauk triathlon was canceled in 2016 and 2017 owing to dense blooms of cyanobacteria. The blue-green algae has been detected in the pond in subsequent summers. 

The comprehensive study Dr. Gobler proposes would identify the exact sources of nutrients and bacteria in the pond and expand the ongoing program of water quality monitoring and analysis, Laura Tooman, C.C.O.M.'s president, said on Monday. The group is prioritizing elements of the proposed study and will seek funding to accomplish it, she said.

All of Long Island is a watershed, Dr. Gobler said. "We live on an island, and nowhere is this term more important than an island where the only source of drinking water is the groundwater. Therefore, the connections between land and groundwater and surface waters and drinking water are all critical." Activity on land influences the quality of groundwater, and "our groundwater is our drinking water. Whatever we do not extract for drinking water discharges into surface waters."

Suffolk County's expanding population, which has approximately doubled since 1960, has brought a dramatic rise in the nitrogen concentration in groundwater, according to Dr. Gobler's presentation, with multiple studies concluding that wastewater, mostly emanating from septic systems and cesspools, is the biggest source. An abundance of nutrients, along with high water temperatures, promote harmful algal blooms.

Fort Pond's ecological health, and the response to its degradation, could track that of Georgica Pond in East Hampton and Wainscott, Dr. Gobler suggested. A dog died after swimming in that water body in 2012, leading to the formation of the Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, a group of pondfront property owners who engaged Dr. Gobler to sample the water and develop mitigation strategies, and encourage the replacement of septic systems on properties within its watershed. Incidents and measurements of cyanobacteria have fallen sharply since 2016.

But there are critical knowledge gaps with respect to Fort Pond, Dr. Gobler said. These include the relative nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, a potentially important data point; dissolved oxygen conditions; environmental factors that may trigger cyanobacteria blooms; the sources of nutrients and pathogenic bacteria in the pond, and the levels of nutrient reductions and remedial approaches required to mitigate blue-green algal blooms.

Ms. Tooman noted other remediation efforts underway that are expected to improve conditions in Fort Pond. Among these are the town's "very active land preservation program" through the purchase of parcels in the watershed with community preservation fund money and incentives and encouragement to upgrade septic systems, she said.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently approved C.C.O.M.'s planned floating wetlands project in the pond, which will see vegetation affixed to floating mats drawing nitrogen and phosphorus out of the water. The mats are then removed, the vegetation is sent for composting, and the process is repeated.

When the town board awarded C.C.O.M. $25,211 to fund the pilot program last year, an official in the Natural Resources Department estimated nutrient reduction in one year of almost 28 pounds of nitrogen and around 15 pounds of phosphorus. That would not make "a large-scale improvement," Ms. Tooman said during the webinar, "but is more a testing program to see how much nutrient uptake can happen."

She also spoke of the long-planned wastewater management district for downtown Montauk, which the town board advanced last Thursday by voting to hire a consulting and engineering firm to create a map and plan.


Green Giants: Here to Stay?

Long Island’s South Fork, known for beaches, maritime history, and fancy people, is also known for its hedges. Hedge installation and maintenance are big business, and there could be a whole book about hedges, with different varieties popular during different eras. In the last decade, for example, the “green giant,” a now ubiquitous tree, has been placed along property lines throughout the Hamptons. It’s here to stay, and grow, and grow.

Apr 18, 2024

Item of the Week: Perle Fine Stretches a Canvas

In the photo seen here from The Star’s archive, Perle Fine prepares a painting for a show at the Upstairs Gallery on Newtown Lane in the 1970s.

Apr 11, 2024

The East End, Shaken and Stirred

About the earthquake centered in New Jersey and felt here on Friday: “In actuality this is, on a relative basis, a big deal, but yet 4.8 is not big by global standards,” William Holt, a professor of geophysics at Stony Brook University, said that day, a few hours after the shaking stopped. “We’ve had smaller ones, three or four over the last 30 years, in the Long Island area.”

Apr 11, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.