Water quality improvement project planned for Iron Point

Reeves Bay

Following recent fish kills and turtle die-offs in the area, a pilot program aimed at reducing nitrogen in local waterways may start at Iron Point in Flanders.

The Southampton Town Board is working with Cornell Cooperative Extension to apply for a water quality improvement grant from the state. If approved, the state and town would contribute $125,000 each to install a “permeable reactive barrier” at Iron Point, which is located off Reeves Bay.

Cornell Cooperative Extension researchers Matt Sclafani and Ron Paulsen addressed the Town Board earlier this month to discuss the proposal.

At that July 2 Town Board meeting, they described the structure as a wall made of wood chips and said it’s installed underground to filter contaminates. It’s also designed to prevent nitrogen from getting into the groundwater and surface waters.

“There are other pollutants of concern, but the primary indicator of the health of the bays is nitrogen,” Mr. Sclafani said. “Nitrogen has been identified as a leader to the impairment of surface waters and estuaries.”

They also said the size of the structure could be up to 400 feet long, four feet wide and 40 feet deep.

The wall could remain in place for about 30 years, Mr. Sclafani said.

“Once it’s in the ground, you kind of want to leave it there and let it do it’s thing,” he said.

Iron Point was identified as a location for the pilot program over a year ago because the area doesn’t have a lot of vegetation or development.

While things runoff has been identified as a major contributor of nitrogen pollution into the estuary in the past, Mr. Sclafani and Mr. Paulsen said recent studies show nitrogen from groundwater plays a much larger role than previously thought.

A large portion of the nitrogen found in groundwater comes from atmospheric discharges, such as fossil fuel burning, they said.

Southampton Town, which owns the parkland, has also recently approved a permeable reactive barrier project for the Canoe Place Inn redevelopment plan along the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays.

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Photo caption: Reeves Bay near Iron Point in Flanders. (Credit: Tim Gannon)