Southampton Village Looks To Clean Up Lake Agawam

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Southampton Village is looking for a way to clean up polluted Lake Agawam without breaking the bank.

One option, according to village trustees, is a plan proposed by Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister in June. Mr. McAllister, who worked with Pio Lombardo, an environmental consultant, wants to install a pump under the lake that will filter water through a distilling patch in the ground that is designed to remove phosphorus. The water would then be filtered back into the lake.

Although the trustees are considering the option, it comes with a hefty price tag—approximately $8 million after three stages of installation. The trustees say the plan sounds promising and could revitalize the troubled body of water for the next 50 years, but the plan is unlikely to move forward at its current price, and they are seeking an affordable alternative.

“There isn’t a single person who doesn’t want to clean up the lake by the monument, but I keep thinking about all of the other things we are involved with at the moment,” Trustee Nancy McGann said at a June work session. “It is a lot of money to spend.”

The other trustees agreed, noting that the three-stage project, which would take roughly five years to implement, would be experimental, and that there are no guarantees it would work. They added that even with grants and possible federal funding, the project could still cost the village several million dollars.

What is clear, the trustees have said, is the need to determine what is causing so much pollution in the water. According to Mr. McAllister, who presented to the board in early June, the root of the problem is the soil, which contains elevated levels of phosphorus. As the soil under the lake is disturbed, it floats in the water, spreading the phosphorus.

The first step, according to Mr. McAllister, is to conduct a comprehensive study, which would cost an estimated $25,000, to determine how much phosphorus is in the water, where the highest levels of contamination are and what the potential sources might be. Then the village will be able to sit down and create a more focused plan to remediation, he said.

“I think we have a really good prescription for this problem,” Mr. McAllister said of the plan designed by Mr. Lombardo. “I hope it will be a benchmark to bring to other locales where there are similar problems.”

In the past, trustees have said they will consider a study, but that it must also outline several possible remediation plans.

Another idea is to use Phoslock—a mineral compound that would chemically bind to the phosphorous in the lake bottom, preventing it from mixing in the water column. Trustees noted that it will be important to see how the compound, which has been applied to Mill Pond in Water Mill, treats the problem there.

For now, trustees are still evaluating their options to get the best bang for the village’s buck.

“As great as the idea to restore the lake is, I think the work we have done so far to reduce the runoff into the lake has had some effect,” Village Trustee Richard W. Yastrzemski said in June, referring to catch basins that were installed to filter storm water runoff. “I think there are other things that have to happen first and are more of a priority. I think it is too early to engage this project, but we should keep the concept to revisit in the future.”

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