Talk Becomes Action - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1703241

Talk Becomes Action

What great news to see the buoy deployed in Lake Agawam by Dr. Chris Gobler and his Stony Brook University team [“‘An Important First Step’: Lake Agawam Monitoring Buoy Launched,”, May 26]!

The buoy cannot directly solve the lake’s challenging issues. But its real-time data will add to Dr. Gobler’s 17 years of studying the lake, allow fine-tuning of solutions already planned, and possibly reveal dynamics that lead to even better solutions. Plans are already prepared, and years of talk is ready to become action.

Lake Agawam is the most visible symptom of a problem that exists in every body of water — and, indeed, in the groundwater — throughout Southampton Village. We have all created this problem: Our septic systems are now recognized to have concentrated nitrates and phosphates deep into the ground, away from the heat, light, oxygen and biological activity that would otherwise treat them. Left untreated, these contaminants migrate underground to open water or remain in the groundwater, causing a range of harmful and even lethal effects.

Popular belief holds that the problems of Lake Agawam are caused by its adjacent homes. While these homes do contribute to the problem, so does each house on Little Plains Road, North Main Street and Breese Lane, all of which sit in the Lake Agawam watershed. The cause/impact balance is actually the reverse of popular belief: homeowners on Agawam contribute only 1 to 2 percent of the known contaminants, but suffer 100 percent of their open effects in the lake. All of us who enjoy Agawam Park and the lake suffer, too.

Solving this problem will take time, patience, and, yes, money. The route to permanent improvements will be a marathon and not a sprint. Every resident of Southampton Village will have to run all or some of that marathon by upgrading their septic systems, changing their yard care techniques, providing financial support, or all of the above.

We are very fortunate to have the leadership of the Lake Agawam Conservancy, the expertise of Dr. Gobler, and significant technical support from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Our fellow residents who formed the conservancy, many directly impacted by the lake, deserve particular thanks, starting with board members John Paulson, Bob Giuffra, David Bohnett, Scott Lindsay, Meghan Magyar, Fernanda Niven and Chuck Scarborough. In addition to leading the journey to a cleaner Lake Agawam, their efforts help pilot techniques that can be incorporated into management plans for other bodies of water.

I encourage everyone to visit the conservancy’s website,, to learn more and to make a donation. Residents can also find the DEC’s report on Lake Agawam, as well as the first of several draft management plans for other village water bodies, on the village website,

Rob Coburn

Southampton Village

Mr. Coburn is writing as a private citizen, but he also is the co-chair of the village’s Clean Water Committee — Ed.


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