A day camp on the banks of Little Fresh Pond could have a significant impact on water quality, according to an independent study commissioned by the Little Fresh Pond Association in October.
The report, completed by Lombardo Associates Inc. of Massachusetts, states that wastewater from the proposed Southampton Country Day Camp site likely will flow into Little Fresh Pond, which is already listed as “impaired” by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The findings support what the Little Fresh Pond Association has been asserting over the last year and a half in its battle with Jay Jacobs, who owns a 17.3-acre tennis camp on Majors Path in North Sea through Southampton Day Camp Realty LLC, and is hoping to transform it into a summer tennis day camp for kids.
In the latest chapter of the zoning saga, the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruled on September 6 that a State Environmental Quality Review Act environmental impact study must be completed before it makes a decision to grant Mr. Jacobs a change of use variance, from one non-conforming use to another, to proceed with his plans. The Town Planning Board is the lead agency that is in charge of conducting the study.
Mr. Jacobs also filed a second application to add a pool, a sports court and playground to the tennis camp. Some North Sea residents said that approval of the second application would allow Mr. Jacobs to back into the day camp. This application will be before the ZBA again on Thursday, December 6.
While the SEQRA study, which could take months to complete, gets under way, the Little Fresh Pond Association commissioned its own independent firm to test the waters.
“I think the study validates the concern that having a large number of people—kids and counselors—on camp grounds would have a disastrous impact on the pond,” said Little Fresh Pond Association Vice President Foster Maer.
According to the study, which was submitted to the association at the end of October, the pond’s water quality is “very sensitive to development,” and is on the DEC’s impaired list, meaning that it is already negatively impacted by pollutants—phosphorus, in this case. The pond is eutrophic, or enriched with plant nutrients. The abundance of phosphorous in particular means there is very little dissolved oxygen, often causing the water to become undrinkable, and even harmful to fish and other species.
Currently, the pond can handle seven residential properties with full-time use to maintain its water quality standards, according to the report.
“Based upon this analysis, one can conclude that the pond’s water quality is very sensitive to development,” the study said. “The Little Fresh Pond water quality data clearly shows that the pond is eutrophic without any new development and will get worse with any additional changes.”
The wastewater discharge from the proposed camp facilities could potentially flow into Little Fresh Pond within two years because of the groundwater flow direction, according to the report, and in order to lessen the impact, Lombardo Associates stated that a water treatment system upgrade should be required.
“My big concern is if they sought construction there, they’d be digging up old cesspools and putting new ones in and increasing the use of property, and start using fertilizer to maintain property, and start putting in facility wires—it would be the death of Little Fresh Pond,” said Little Fresh Pond Association President John Barona.
Mr. Jacobs’s attorney, Wayne Bruyn of O’Shea, Marcincuk and Bruyn LLP., said in September that Mr. Jacobs intends on updating the area’s infrastructure by upgrading the antiquated septic system, and neighbors would be able to hook up to the system.
According to an expert study that Mr. Jacobs commissioned in 2011, the wastewater would slope south and not northwest where the pond is located. “The nearest development is well over 500 feet from the pond to the south or southwest,” Mr. Bruyn said at the time, adding that the camp would run only two months out of the year, which would be less impactful. Mr. Bruyn did not return calls this week seeking comment on the new study.
Mr. Maer maintains that having 200 people on the property is a “recipe for disaster,” and said he intends to monitor the town’s progress to ensure a good assessment is conducted.
Mr. Barona said he had hoped the town would learn a lesson from other “dead” water bodies like Lake Agawam.
“We’re spending millions trying to get back or recover them,” he said. “I think we should learn from our mistakes. I would be very disappointed if the ZBA and the Planning Board allows money to win out over what’s best for the environment.”