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Aug 23, 2016 10:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Blue-Green Algae Blooms Discovered In Mecox Bay

The Sagg Cut in Southampton was opened on August 15 to bring salinity levels in Sagg Pond back up over 10 ppm, after sinking as low as 3.5 ppm in some areas. COURTESY OF SOUTHAMPTON TOWN TRUSTEES
Aug 23, 2016 4:27 PM

Yet another Southampton water body—Mecox Bay—was confirmed this week to have toxic blue-green algae blooms.

Confirmed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation on Friday, the contamination was reported by scientists at Stony Brook University. The Suffolk County Health Department and Southampton Town Trustees are warning people not to swim or fish in Mecox Bay, as blue-green algae, which are formally called cyanobacteria, can be toxic to humans and animals if the algae start to grow and form blooms.

To flush out the bay, the Southampton Town Trustees are looking into having the Mecox cut opened to the ocean again. Trustee Scott Horowitz said on Monday that he had been busy on the phone trying to put everything in place, and that one of the biggest challenges is that the permit to do so was not renewed after it expired earlier this year.

Mr. Horowitz said he hopes to be able to get approval for an emergency opening in the interest of the public and the environment, as was done earlier this summer. In the future, he said, he hopes DEC officials, the Trustees and state legislators can come up with a management plan to schedule regular flushings, rather than doing it on a case-by-case basis based solely on conditions.

Trustee Bruce Stafford indicated that he was upset that county officials had not immediately notified the Trustees about the algae blooms once the testing discovered the situation. He said the county had posted only one sign notifying the public not to take shellfish and finfish from the bay. On Monday, the Trustees had a maintenance crew put up more warning signs.

Sagg Pond was confirmed to have blue-green algae blooms earlier this summer, and it has not yet been removed from the list of contaminated water bodies. Just last week, in an attempt to raise salinity levels in Sagg Pond, the Trustees opened the cut there and flushed out the pond, draining the harmful algae blooms out into the ocean—raising concerns that ocean beaches are now being affected by the blooms.

Dr. Christopher Gobler, a Stony Brook University marine biology professor, said that when algae blooms enter the ocean, they “fairly quickly” become diluted, but that the toxins they produce “could be persistent in the water and could enter the food web.”

Blue-green algae blooms thrive in water bodies that are warm and have high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, which tend to be ones that also have high levels of Enterococcus, an indicator of coliform bacteria and fecal matter that primarily enters the water through septic systems and runoff.

Colleen Henn, who works with the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force, takes water samples from Mecox Bay and Sagg Pond, among a handful of other water bodies on the East End, to search for high levels of Enterococcus.

“Mpn” is an abbreviation for “most probable number of coliform,” and the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for safety in water bodies used for recreation is a reading no higher than 104 mpn per 100 milliliters.

Her reading in Sagg Pond on August 2 was remarkably high—24,916 mpn per 100 milliliters. Those readings later moderated to 161 mpn on August 9, and a safe 60 mpn on August 16.

After the cut was opened at Sagg Pond on August 16, the reading in the ocean at nearby Sagg Main Beach was 145, Ms. Henn said, which is above the EPA standard for safety. However, blooms in the ocean are less of a threat, she said, because the water is cooler and in motion, and toxins are diluted relatively quickly.

Residents who live or near the water can take a number of steps to prevent pollution, Ms. Henn said—including making sure that their septic tanks are properly maintained every year, and creating a buffer zone of plants to prevent unfiltered fertilizers from draining directly into the water bodies after heavy rainfalls.

“Nobody is ever going to be upset about investing in their backyards,” Ms. Henn said. “It’s a matter of doing it instead of talking about it.”

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Interesting how the article now has a photo and the comments have been deleted. Must be a mistake so I will repeat mine. When I spoke to Bill Pell last September and asked him why the Mecox cut was not opened in August he said it was an oversight and it should have been opened. It was opened in September after the swimmers had all gone home but at least the entitled homeowners didn't have to deal with the smell right? What is the reason for not opening the cut this August Bill? The water is ...more
By icecreamman (299), Southampton on Aug 23, 16 12:27 PM
Lotta kids swim in Mecox bay. Not everyone can read the signs posted either or will care enough to ruin their kid's afternoon. Just sayin', it's only a matter of time. What will the Town do then?
By johnj (667), Westhampton on Aug 23, 16 12:28 PM
Bill is no longer the go to guy for opening the cut, that duty has been given to the least senior Trustee Stafford, why???? Politics perhaps ? Whatever the reason the cut needs to be opened NOW! Please concentrate on the job at hand gentlemen, it is much more important than some grand collaboration with the Town for a parking lot picnic area at Triton Lane. Please do your jobs.
By bigfresh (2901), north sea on Aug 23, 16 4:46 PM
Potentially toxic B/G algae in Mecox Bay was only a matter of time. The Trustees, whose mission is to protect the waters, need to contact homeowners tangent to our water bodies to urge them to stop the use of fertilizer (nitrogen and phosphorus). The choice is clean water vs. greener lawns. Lawn clippings left in place are sufficient to return nutrients to soil to maintain green lawns.
By WMCAC Member (3), Water Mill on Aug 23, 16 5:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Unfortunately we're past the point of "asking". Strict regulations and even a possible ban on lawn fertilizers need to be enacted now. The people and creatures that actually enjoy the local waters on a regular, year-round basis should not have to suffer because of those who only "enjoy" their lush lawns for a few weekends out of the year. And it's time that the Town officials stop bending over backwards for them and start protecting the local people and wildlife. They should be ashamed. Very ashamed.
By johnj (667), Westhampton on Aug 24, 16 11:43 AM
Jim,the trustee that was in charge of mecox bay gave it up and I was asked if I would take it on as i have sagg to.Scott and Ed recived a temporary permit to open mecox in June of this year as the old permit had expired under the last trustees watch.Sagg was just opened to flush out the bay and to drain down the water level as there were issues with basements flooding.Mecox was opened in June of this year to flush and drop the level of water and as soon as we can get any type of permit to open ...more
By taxpayer1 (51), Southampton on Aug 24, 16 2:52 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By CaptainSig (640), Dutch Harbor on Aug 27, 16 7:57 AM
"too" not "to"
"received" not "recived"
Our leaders. Wonderfull
By CaptainSig (640), Dutch Harbor on Aug 28, 16 7:47 AM
Thanks Bruce, there was a law passed by NY State in the late 1890's that gives the Trustees the authority to open Mecox at their discretion without any permits. Thanks for your hard work.
By bigfresh (2901), north sea on Aug 25, 16 4:54 PM