Goldsmith Inlet requests expected soon

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Autumn Pond in Peconic was found to have traces of human waste in the water.

Southold Town is months away from having a set of recommendations to help mitigate pollution in Goldsmith Inlet, according to Southold Town planner Mark Terry.

Testing of Autumn Pond in Peconic, which is connected to the inlet by a drainpipe, has become a point of concern since DNA testing of turned up traces of human waste in the water.

The testing began last summer as part of a larger effort to restore Goldsmith Inlet, which neighbors Autumn Pond. Water samples were collected from 16 stations in the inlet during dry and wet weather. The results of the sampling, conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension, were presented to the board last month.

The landscaped lawns and private cesspools that surround the pond are believed to be the source of pollutants. The levels appear normal during dry periods, but the bacteria are shown to rise during rainy periods due to increased runoff.

“We want to figure out if it’s a repetitive occurrence or an isolated incident,” Mr. Terry said.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension and a private consultant enlisted by the town, eDesign Dynamics LLC of New York City, are currently measuring tidal flow and the rate at which sand is being deposited in the inlet. In August, the two groups are expected to present a list of recommendations to the board to serve as guidelines to help alleviate the pollution, according to Hugh Switzer, a member of the Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet.

Mr. Switzer, who applauded the town for making progress on the issue, said the recommendations are a long time coming.

Since 2003, the organization has been working to help mitigate stormwater runoff at hot spots, remove invasive plants and restore native habitat, and eliminate the sand deposits that are the primary cause of stagnation.

Significant amounts of pollutants are carried into the inlet from the Sound, Mr. Switzer said. The pollutants are trapped by the large amount of sand that is being forced into the inlet, severely limiting the tidal flow as well as the normal amount of flushing, which has historically kept the inlet safe and healthy, he said.

With sand filling the channel and inlet, and pollution levels rising, shellfishing was gradually restricted and eventually, about two decades ago, fully prohibited. This led to a major county dredging of the channel into the inlet in 2005. Unfortunately it was ineffective and the dredged sand soon returned.

Since then, even more sand has been deposited in the inlet and pollution levels continue to rise. The town now conducts annual “emergency” dredging to keep the channel entrance open, which maintains a limited tidal flow into the inlet.

DNA testing was a part of the town’s Goldsmith Inlet Management Plan, which attempts to address the full range of water quality degradation, stormwater remediation, debris removal and invasive species infestation issues.

Mr. Switzer said he hopes the recommendations to help restore the inlet and Autumn Pond will be presented by the end of the summer.

“This is an environmental jewel we need to save,” he said.

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