Water is the lifeblood of Montauk. It defines who we are as a community. In fact, Montauk has 23 bodies of water – some of which are threatened. Working together, we are reversing the damage and cleaning up Montauk’s water.
WATER TESTING PROGRAMS
Over the past several years we have introduced and sustained multiple scientifically based water quality testing initiatives not just in Montauk, but throughout East Hampton Town. Our ongoing water testing is critical to water quality improvement efforts; it provides the data needed to assess current conditions, and to monitor and track the impacts and effectiveness of new projects.
Enterococcus is a bacteria that exists in the guts of warm-blooded animals (birds, humans, and other mammals). Out of concern for declining water quality, CCOM joined Surfrider Foundation’s nationwide Blue Water Task Force in 2013 to start testing enterococcus bacteria levels in Montauk’s waters. Since then, CCOM staff and volunteers have expanded the program and now work year-round collecting water samples in Montauk, Amagansett and East Hampton, and perform bacterial analysis right in our office lab. On average, during the summer months we process 30 water samples per week! Sharing our data with the Blue Water Task Force ensures broader outreach and greater environmental and public health.
HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM (HAB)
In May 2018 CCOM partnered with the Gobler Laboratory at Stony Brook Southampton on an intense harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring program in Fort Pond, Montauk. While most algae are harmless and often play an integral part in any aquatic ecosystem, some, like the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), produce toxins that can be harmful to humans and animals. Such blooms have been detected in Fort Pond every summer since 2015, with 2016 being the only exception.
Previously, testing for HABs in Fort Pond had been sporadic and infrequent, with only a handful of samples taken. Now, every year beginning in early May, weekly samples are taken by CCOM and analyzed by the Gobler Lab, continuing through October. Results are posted to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s HAB Notifications website and are analyzed by NYS and Suffolk County health departments for issuing health or swimming advisories. Weekly testing creates a dataset that will serve as the foundation for establishing the extent of the problem – a first step toward devising an effective solution.
MICROBIAL SOURCE TRACKING
CCOM partnered with the nation’s premiere scientific agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), to restore water quality in Lake Montauk. The USGS uses advanced scientific analysis to track the sources and significance of pollutants – including nitrogen – entering Lake Montauk. Known as “microbial source tracking,” this crucial data will help us implement effective programs supported by advanced scientific analysis that will have measurable improvements in Montauk’s ground and surface waters.
We are able to fund this significant new program because of the remarkable generosity of donors who have supported our Clean Water Challenge, including CCOM Sustainer Circle Members, whose three-year financial commitments help make this program possible. We are also deeply grateful to the Town of East Hampton, which approved significant funding for this initiative.
Save the Lake – Save the Pond
The natural systems that filter and clean Lake Montauk and Fort Pond are overwhelmed. New York State has designated Lake Montauk as an imperiled water body, resulting in the closure of many shellfish beds and the shuttering of the public beach at South Lake. Fort Pond is similarly unsafe for swimming for much of the summer season.
What does it take to clean up Montauk’s polluted waters? You!
Save the Lake – Save the Pond is a comprehensive, community-based program designed to specifically reduce or eliminate pollutants and improve water quality in Lake Montauk and Fort Pond. Regardless of where you live, it’s only a matter of time before pollution from your property enters the waters around us. We outline simple actions you can take to be a Clean Water Steward. These actions save money over time, increase property value, reduce public health risks and clean the water. It’s a win-win!
With your help we can restore our water bodies.
Elevated nitrogen levels from outdated and ineffective septic systems have led to nitrogen loadings and a proliferation of harmful algal blooms in our waters in recent years. CCOM led the successful effort to expand the Community Preservation Fund to support water quality improvement projects, including septic upgrades. As a result, home and business owners are now able to apply for a East Hampton Town funds to convert to low-nitrogen systems. Additionally, many residents are also eligible for the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Grant Program.