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Warnings posted against swimming in Fresh Pond

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Blue-green algae on the surface of Fresh Pond Monday morning near the town landing off Lake Drive.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Blue-green algae on the surface of Fresh Pond Monday morning near the town landing off Lake Drive.

The Department of Public Works has posted signs warning that swimming in Fresh Pond “may pose a risk to your health. Please refrain from swimming.”

Vincent Novak, who lives on Lake Drive, had alerted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) via email on July 12 that the pond was showing signs of blue-green algae blooms, which in turn could be “harmful algal blooms” (HAB).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the presence of HABs can produce “harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.”

Mr. Novak wrote that near the shore the pond had a “pea-soup green” color and that last month there was “green paint-like scum,” which had dissipated.

Mr. Novak noted that the pond has not been tested this year for dangerous bacteria in the water and there was no signage warning swimmers to a potential health risk.
Rebecca Gorney, a scientist with the DEC, responded to Mr. Novak’s email, replying that photos he had sent of the pond were “consistent with the appearance of cyanobacteria,” or blue-green algae.

Ms. Gorney said she was forwarding the information provided to colleagues in Suffolk County.

As of July 12, the DEC has listed Fresh Pond as having a “suspicious” algal bloom.
Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr., after reviewing the emails provided by Mr. Novak and hearing from several other Islanders concerned about the condition of the pond, contacted Deputy Supervisor Chris Lewis who directed him to post the signs.

Mr. Card then directed John Hallman, who has a commercial water testing business, to take samples from the pond.

Mr. Hallman said Monday he had scheduled the samples to be taken Wednesday for fecal bacteria and ecoli.

Water quality in the pond has been a contentious issue between Mr. Novak and the town for years. In August 2015 conditions showed low levels of blue green algae, and visual evidence of the blooms “appears to have disappeared,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty reported.

Water Advisory Committee member Peter Grand has said that water quality tests in 2014 showed Fresh Pond posed no problems for swimmers.

But Mr. Novak maintained that the levels for fecal coliform bacteria, enterrocci bacteria, sulfates, organic nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium were higher than acceptable at that time.