Peconic camp swimming area remains closed for high bacteria

The swimming area at Great Pond, a freshwater pond adjacent to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Dunes summer camp in Southold, has been closed to swimming since last week due to high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Campers at Peconic Dunes usually swim in the Long Island Sound, which is not affected by the closure.

Camp director Christopher Colahan said Monday that while the camp submits paperwork to the Suffolk County Health Department to register the pond as a swimming area each year, it’s only used for swimming to conduct tests on days when the Sound is too rough.

Mr. Colahan said the pond is often closed by the health department one or two days a season, but this is the longest closure he’s seen since he began working at the camp six years ago.

“This is also the lowest water level in the pond in the six years I’ve been here, which might have something to do with it,” he said.

Mr. Colahan said the camp submitted a grant proposal to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to conduct DNA testing to determine the source of the bacteria, but was rejected because the project was research-based and not implementing a solution to an already-researched problem. He estimated the cost of the testing as in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“There are multiple potential causes. There are a lot of geese in Great Pond. It could also be non-point source runoff from the road,” he said. “There are 30 private homes we share Great Pond with. Many of those homes have septic systems built before DEC regulations. The septic systems are old and close to the pond.”

Four water samples taken at the site since Aug. 6 have all been “poor”, according to data compiled by the health department.

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