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Jan 15, 2019 10:14 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Problems In Wainscott Pond Are Diverse, But Solutions May Be Quick

Wainscott Pond
Jan 21, 2019 11:27 AM

For all the publicity that toxic algae blooms in Georgica Pond have received, scientists from Stony Brook University have found that nearby Wainscott Pond has actually sustained far worse blooms of the potentially dangerous algae in recent years.

The blooms in Wainscott Pond are also fed by influxes of nutrients from a much more diverse set of sources, making solutions to the pond’s woes likely much more difficult to address than in Georgica.

Nonetheless, Wainscott Pond’s relatively small size could present those working to improve water quality throughout Suffolk County with an opportunity to apply a battery of approaches to addressing nutrient loading and possibly see quick results, scientists say.

“In Georgica, half the nitrogen came from wastewater—there’s 2,000 homes in the watershed there,” said Dr. Christopher Gobler, Stony Brook professor whose researchers have been studying Wainscott Pond for the last two years. “Wainscott Pond’s system is more complex. A third of the nitrogren is coming from agriculture, a little over 20 percent is from wastewater and another 25 percent is coming from the sediments. And the entire Poxabogue Golf Course is in the watershed, so that’s a significant source.”

Dr. Gobler said that a range of potential fixes could be employed to address the issues in Wainscott Pond. To address groundwater flowing into the pond that has picked up nitrogen from the golf course and farm fields, he suggested that installing underground filters known as permeable reactive barriers could be one approach.

Such barriers, which are essentially just walls of sawdust buried at the depth where groundwater flows, are a relatively new technology that is being applied in several locations around the South Fork to address groundwater polluted with nutrients decades ago that are just now reaching surface waters.

Since a quarter of the nutrients in the pond are coming from human waste, upgrading the septic systems at houses in the watershed to new technology that reduces nitrogen levels in wastewater released into the ground could also be an effective step, Dr. Gobler said.

A group of residents will be meeting this winter with officials from Suffolk County and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss management plans for attacking Wainscott Pond’s problems.

A group of residents last month formed a nonprofit group, the Wainscott Pond Project, to spearhead talks between the scientists from around the county on how to proceed.

“We’re looking at some things that haven’t been done in the United States before, but have been successful in other countries,” said Simon Kinsella, one of the group’s founders. “Steve Bellone’s office has been very helpful. We’ve met with people from all the county departments and the [Suffollk County Reclaim Our Water Initiative]. We don’t want to make any mistakes.”

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