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Fresh Pond remediation awaits hearing: Committee recommends $147,600 grant

The public will get a say whether the Fresh Pond remediation project will be partially funded by an allocation recommended by the Water Quality Improvement Project Advisory Board.

After many years of insistence by some former Town officials that Fresh Pond’s water is safe, the Fresh Pond Neighbors Association was finally able to get a study by Lombardo Associates showing phosphorus was creating harmful algal blooms.

Green scum on the shores of Fresh Pond. (Reporter file)

And this isn’t just a problem in the pond: Fresh Pond drains into Menantic and Dickerson creeks and eventually Peconic Bay.

Once the cause was defined, Town Engineer Joe Finora worked with Neighbors Association members to examine solutions recommended by Lombardo Associates. One was rejected as a band-aid that wouldn’t address the root of the problem. A second was a chemical treatment not sanctioned in New York State.

That left the “hypolimnetic method,” which involves removing water containing phosphorus from the pond, running it through a filtering system and returning clean water.

The entire project cost hasn’t been determined, but before the project can be put out to bid, there are interim steps involving permitting and designing the system. That’s why the request for money came to the town’s Water Quality Improvement Project Advisory Board (WQI).

In January, WQI recommended about 95% of the money the Fresh Pond Neighbors Association requested, asking the Town Board to approve a $147,600 grant that would get the project shovel ready so construction grants could be sought.

A sign posted at the town landing off Lake Drive several years ago. (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

WQI’s funding comes from the Community Preservation Fund real estate transfer tax, 20% of which is  allocated to water quality improvements.

Still pending is a much smaller request of $6,900 for professional services involving harmful vegetation removal that must be done until construction is complete to offer a permanent solution. WQI put off a decision on that in January, and expected to consider it at last Thursday’s special meeting. But lack of a voting quorum meant no action.

There were three out of five members of WQI present, but one, Chairman James Eklund, had to recuse himself because he is active with the Neighbors Association and helped to gather water samples used in the original study.

So there’s still no vote on that final $6,900. But Peter Grand, a leader of the Neighbors Association, told the WQI last week the association will raise that money if a grant isn’t forthcoming.

In addition, until the full treatment system is up and running, there will be an estimated cost of $8,000 a year to remove harmful vegetation from the water. The Neighbors Association is prepared to raise money for that cost, Mr. Grand said.