WAC wants fewer, more thorough well water tests

JULIE LANE PHOTO Water Advisory Committee member Peter Grand has observed 5-foot fluctuations in water levels throughout the years in Fresh Pond, he told his colleagues Monday night.

Water Advisory Committee member Peter Grand has observed 5-foot fluctuations in water levels throughout the years in Fresh Pond.

The Water Advisory Committee wants to renegotiate its contract with the United States Geological Survey to eliminate winter readings in favor of readings that would include both water and chloride levels, especially during the spring and summer months.The committee is in the second year of its three-year contract with the USGS and hoping the change could be accomplished without added cost to Shelter Island. In addition, the committee wants to reach out to residents who might be willing to have their wells tested since active wells reveal more thorough information than can be garnered through use of the more dormant test wells currently in use.

It’s not something the Town Board needs to get involved in mandating, committee member Peter Grand said.
“People are committed here to doing the right thing,” he said about gaining cooperation for such testing.

While members of the committee usually talk about water level fluctuation in  inches, the newest member, Mr. Grand told his colleagues he has observed 5-foot changes through the years as estimated by where the water strikes a large rock in Fresh Pond.

Confirming that Fresh Pond, along with other ponds on the Island are part of the water table, chairman John Hallman sneered as he told his colleagues Irrigation Committee consultant John Benvegna reported, “We have loads of water here.”

Mr. Hallman, who somewhat reluctantly participated in the Irrigation Committee study that will inform the Town Board’s decision about what to do about irrigation systems on the Island and, perhaps, other moves to protect the aquifer, questioned Supervisor Jim Dougherty about who paid for Mr. Benvegna’s services.

On record, it was the Shelter Island Association that volunteered the money to pay for the consultant, but Mr. Hallman wondered specifically who contributed to that fund.

He speculated that it may be people who have irrigation systems and wanted to be able to continue to use them, suggesting the report may have been bias in their favor. The committee concluded that existing systems should be upgraded, but allowed to continue to be used and made several specific recommendations about steps that could help to protect the aquifer. But Mr. Benvegna’s concluded that the existing systems have no real impact on water availability on the Island.

Mr. Dougherty’s only response was that it was the SIA, and he appeared to dismiss any suggestion that the results were biased.

While he spoke briefly to his committee colleagues about concerns that have plagued Fresh Pond in recent years, Mr. Grand agreed the algae blooms that have been sighted there at times are more a concern for the MS4 committee that deals with runoff into area waterways. He will bring his concerns to the Town Board on Tuesday, August 20, when that will be on the Town Board’s work session agenda.

At the same time, he said he thinks some of his Fresh Pond neighbors might well be willing to work with him in an effort to control the algae by putting in plants that help to fight the algae.

He also is calling on his neighbors to join him in pushing for more passive uses of Fresh Ponsd such as kayaking.

“My neighbors have varying perspectives” on whether or not to encourage such use, Mr. Grand acknowledged.

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