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New tests for Fresh Pond come up clean

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Fresh Pond swimmers on  a summer day three years ago. New tests have been encouraging that the pond is becoming safe for swimming.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Fresh Pond swimmers on a summer day three years ago. New tests have been encouraging that the pond is becoming safe for swimming.

Fresh Pond is beginning to live up to its name.

Test results taken in May by an independent laboratory contracted by the town gave the pond a clean bill of health, according to Town Engineer John Cronin.

There are caveats in Mr. Cronin’s assessment, but in a July 11 email to Town Attorney Laury Dowd, Mr. Cronin wrote that the water tested didn’t appear “to represent any problems.”

One of his reservations is that the tests don’t give an idea what uses the pond has been cleared for, whether for swimming, fishing or drinking. Another reservation is that this test may just be a snapshot and the pond must be tested on a regular basis to get an acceptable, long-term determination of its health.

“The town is OK sampling once in a while, but that approach has to accord with the state for particular uses,” Mr. Cronin told the Reporter.

In his letter to Ms. Dowd, Mr. Cronin wrote that “for the date, time and type of sample, results indicate that Fresh Pond was in an acceptable state based on the examined parameters.”

The water quality of the pond has been a long-standing controversy, muddied with conflicting test results.

Last September the pond was found to be polluted with high levels of phosphorus and fecal coliforms. Coliforms are a form of bacteria that can be found in the feces of warm-blooded animals. Also found were high levels of another bacteria called enterococci.

Fresh Pond was placed on New York State’s “impaired waters” list, which means a water body is too polluted to meet the water quality standards set by the state. Shortly after that the town closed the pond to swimming.

Then in November new tests on Fresh Pond found it to have a “clean bill of health,” according to Supervisor Jim Dougherty.

A December 31 report from Holbrook’s Long Island Analytical Laboratories — the same firm that did tests this spring — to John Hallman, chairman of the town’s Water Advisory Committee (WAC) said “no Giardia was detected …”

Giardia is a parasite that colonizes and reproduces in the small intestines of animals. The lab also found a positive result of blue green algae in its samples. Human exposure to the algae results in the symptoms of poisoning, including diarrhea, vomiting and high fever.

WAC member Peter Grand, who lives on Fresh Pond said the new results means the pond is back as a safe resource. Speaking of a recent dip in the pond, Mr. Grand said “you can wriggle your toes and see them clear as day.”

Mr. Grand added that the pond has been tested repeatedly “and is in very healthy shape.”

He noted that it’s important to continue monitoring, mentioning that the next tests will be in September.

“We’re concerned that with the height of the geese migration season as we head toward fall that more feces might be introduced,” Mr. Grand said. “It’s going to require ongoing vigilance.”

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