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Aug 16, 2016 3:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Scientists At A Loss To Explain Vanishing Algae Blooms In Georgica Pond

The aquatic weed harvester that has been working to remove algae from Georgica Pond this summer. Michael Wright
Aug 16, 2016 3:48 PM

Scientists say that, almost inexplicably, the levels of toxic blue green algae that had been blooming in Georgica Pond for much of the summer have plummeted in the last week.

“While blue-green algal blooms are [intensifying] in 10 East End lakes and ponds, they have vanished from Georgica Pond,” Dr. Christopher Gobler said in an email message last week.

Dr. Gobler and a team of scientists and graduate students from Stony Brook University, have been closely tracing the conditions in the pond and watching algae blooms.

Blue-green algae, which naturally produces a toxin harmful or potentially fatal to small children and pets, appeared in the pond in late June this year and by the July 4 holiday the East Hampton Town Trustees had closed the pond to all crabbing and eel fishing and posted warnings from state officials warning people against coming in contact with pond water or allowing their pets to wander near the pond.

The disappearance of the algae, has not yet prompted a lifting of the fishing restrictions.

Those working to protect the pond said the diminution of blue-green algae in such short order is encouraging, even as they are at a loss to explain it.

Weather and intermittent heavy rainfalls, as this summer has brought, typically would drive explosions of the algae, as it has in most local freshwater bodies. But Georgica has been the anomaly.

“We’re not sure what caused it,” said Sara Davison, project manager for the Friends of Georgica Pond, a pond-front homeowners-led group that has raised money to fund a comprehensive study and nutrient reduction effort in the pond. “The pond is a little deeper this year because it wasn’t opened in the spring. We don’t know how much nitrogen we’ve removed? Or, sometimes Mother Nature just does things that we don’t entirely understand.”

The Stony Brook Scientists who have been closely monitoring the pond for three years now have said that opening the “cut” through the beach at the south end of the pond to let pond water flow out and seawater flow in more often would put a quick end to the blooms of algae.

The East Hampton Town Trustees, who manage the pond and its letting, have thus far declined to deviate from their biennial schedule of digging the cut. This spring, they didn’t even get to do the usual May letting because of the presence of mating piping plovers, a federally protected shore bird, in the area where the cut is typically dug.

As a result, the blue-green algae blooms appeared somewhat earlier this year than they have in the last couple of years.

Also for the first time this year, the Friends effort has taken a proactive approach to some of the issues. Since late May a Massachusetts lake management company has been using a paddle-wheeled floating tractor to skim aquatic plants and scum from the pond.

The odd looking tractor-boat hybrid propels itself somewhat awkwardly along the pond shoreline, using a steel conveyor belt to lap up various species of invasive aquatic plants and dump them into a hopper.

The plants are taken to the Springs-Fireplace Road recycling center where they are being stockpiled, separate from the other compost piles so they can be studied. Stony Brook scientists are trying to determine if the nutrient-heavy plants may be usable as some sort of organic nutrient source.

The plants are fed by nitrogen flowing into the pond in groundwater polluted by septic systems at homes, fertilized lawns and farm fields. By removing them, the scientists say they are removing nitrogen from the pond that would otherwise be released back into the pond when the plants die.

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A little homeowner based algecide application might be the answer here...?
By G (342), Southampton on Aug 16, 16 7:16 PM
The experts really are self proclaimed experts.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 16, 16 8:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sara, as the leader of the group, how about stop fertilizers near the pond. Make a natural green belt around the pond.
Fred Havameyer did one on the south side of Agawam to filter the run off. If each of you did this instead of donating money it might have a great effect, can't hurt.
Southampton Village proposed a sewage treatment plant. Was accepted by golb??? $$$
Who is paying who???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Aug 19, 16 7:11 PM