Two water tests at Fresh Pond — especially two with strikingly different results — can’t tell the story about what’s happening with that prized body of water, according to Water Advisory Committee (WAC) member Peter Grand.
What has happened is a community of residents who individually had concerns about the safety of swimming in the pond have come together to investigate the problem and donate funds for the process, Mr. Grand told his colleagues at the WAC meeting Monday night.
After receiving a report in July that fecal coliforms were at 1600, residents shared the cost of a second test, this one in August, and fecal coliforms were at 23. Fecal coliforms result from two sources — wildlife, such as geese that frequent the pond, and inadequate septic systems that result in untreated or poorly treated human waste reaching the pond, Mr. Grand said.
Mr. Grand has organized two groups — Shelter Island Fresh Pond Neighbors Association for those who, like Mr. Grand, live in the area, and Friends of Fresh Pond for anyone interested in helping solve the problem. The neighbors association is still in the organizational phase with plans to meet at the end of this week to discuss whether to form a 501 (c)3, allowing the group to take tax-deductible contributions or to remain a more informal group.
But neighbors did kick in to pay for the second test and have been sharing information about their own septic systems, some of which had already been mapped by interns working for Town Engineer John Cronin.
There are many old homes around Fresh Pond, Mr. Grand said, and some owners, perhaps, don’t know anything about their cesspools or aged septic systems.
With regard to the two differing test results, Mr. Grand said the test done in July was on the east side near the town landing while the August test was conducted on the west side of the pond.
At the suggestion of Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. is exploring the possibility of having Suffolk County test Fresh Pond with the same frequency it tests regular swimming beaches on the Island.
“I think that’s absolutely brilliant,” Mr. Grand said.
GEARING UP FOR GREEN EXPO
WAC members will be staffing a booth at Saturday’s Green Expo and the first 25 visitors will receive free water testing kits. In addition, member John Lopez will organize a water balloon toss around noon to be conducted by his wife Erin, who came up with the idea to attract attention to water issues.