This week’s question to East Hampton Village mayoral candidates involves zoning and its effect on nitrogen loading, and the dredging of Town Pond.
Nitrogen is a plant nutrient. Large amounts can stimulate excessive growth of plant plankton and macroalgae in a process called eutrophication. Harmful algal blooms, some of which are toxic to humans, can be the result.
Sewage, livestock waste, fossil-fuel burning, and especially the use of synthetic fertilizer has contributed to a significant increase of nitrogen in local waters. Excess nitrogen in the atmosphere can produce pollutants, which can impair a person’s ability to breathe, limit visibility, and alter plant growth.
This leads to the next question: Why is dredging important?
Dredging the Town Pond helps maintain tidal flushing, crucial to the pond’s health. In addition, with less sand at the gut, the Trustees’ traditional letting can be accomplished more easily and successfully. A deeper pond also keeps the water cooler and with global temperatures rising, the health of the pond is compromised.
These were the issues that informed the following question from the Village Preservation Society’s questionnaire:
What role, if any, does local zoning play in relationship to nitrogen loading and other challenges to ground and surface water purity? What will you do to monitor and protect our water resources? What is your position on dredging Town Pond?
I am happy to say that we are on schedule to dredge Town Pond this fall after putting together a very good plan to accomplish this, and securing the necessary permits to do so. The removal of sediment along with the new bioswale installed by the village along the village green will effectively reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff and improve water quality in Town Pond and Hook Pond. We continue to monitor our ponds and work with the town Trustees and the Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation to improve water quality. We have already installed filters for storm water runoff and installed signs and pet waste disposal gloves for use around the ponds. We have legislated a stricter code than the town’s for the requirement to install a new [Innovative and Alternative On-Site Wastewater Treatment] nitrogen reducing systems for all new construction, including significant additions of 25 percent or more to existing buildings. I would like to see additional legislation to control landscaping and fertilization surrounding the ponds as well.
The village recently passed legislation requiring that new construction or substantial renovation necessitates the installation of low nitrogen IA septic systems. We are in the planning stages of a municipal wastewater treatment facility for the commercial core to replace the hodgepodge of outdated septic in the village core. These steps will help improve groundwater substantially. The village will soon be accepting bids for the first phase of dredging Town Pond, probably starting in the fall of 2020.
The village has recently changed the zoning code to require IA septic systems on new residential construction and substantial residential renovations. I agree with these important zoning changes. The village also funded the Hook Pond and Town Pond water quality study, which was completed in 2016. The study recommended that both ponds be dredged to improve water quality. However, the village did not apply for a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit to dredge Town Pond Until April, 2019 — they were approved by the DEC in June 2019. The RFP to do this work was not issued until March 5, 2020. These delays are unacceptable.
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