Southold Trustees to pursue bacteria study

Southold’s Board of Trustees has submitted a grant application to cover half the cost of a two-year study to examine bacteria in a number of town creeks.

The Bacterial Source Tracking study is being pursued under Suffolk County’s Water Quality Preservation & Protection Program. 

“The study is fully funded by the Trustees, having previously been approved by the Southold Town shellfish advisory committee,” Trustee John Bredemeyer said.

The project will cost $30,000 and will include DNA testing, drone photography and contamination tracking. The town will support half the cost and it’s hoped the grant will provide the remaining $15,000. But the study will proceed even if the Trustees do not get the grant, Mr. Bredemeyer said, as the shellfish advisory committee has already budgeted for it.

“We look at it as a home run to possibly get funding for this project,” Mr. Bredemeyer said. “The DNA testing will confirm whether we have contamination from human sources into the water.”

The grant will help cover expenses for DNA testing to determine where coliform bacteria originates in specific bodies of water. Bacterial Source Tracking is a DNA-based statistical tool that enables researchers to track the source of coliforms in water to the species level, including humans, according to the Trustees’ application cover letter. Cornell Cooperative Extension will be involved in testing because its database of human and animal scat DNA will be used to help identify sources found in the water.

The study will focus on the tributary to Pipes Cove in Greenport, East Creek in Cutchogue and Narrow River, Orient Harbor and Oysterponds Creek, all in Orient.

“In the past, virtually every place we have looked at, we lose our shellfishing to abundant wildlife,” Mr. Bredemeyer said.

“All the abundant geese, deer, swans, raccoons result in losing shellfishing, but we also want to see if us humans are a problem too.”

He noted that in some spots there are houses with cesspools or septic systems close to the water that could lead to contamination.

The Trustees will examine Narrow River in Orient to see how animals near the water, which may grow in numbers under a proposal from Fresh & Co., affect the river and shellfishing in Hallocks Bay.

“Basically, what this testing does is it goes in and looks to see what animal waste and waste of man is in there,” Mr. Bredemeyer said. “It’s science based.”

The study will also use tracing dye to determine where the contaminated water travels.

“It’s a matter of not only tracking the source of who is responsible for the contamination, but also to know where it is going and what the impacts are,” Mr. Bredemeyer said.

The final study report should be complete in the fall of 2019. The Trustees should find out sometime in April if they will be awarded the grant.

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