Editorial: Establishing a Real Baseline

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Thanks to a public-private partnership between Sag Harbor Village, the Sag Harbor Partnership and the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, a comprehensive testing program led by Dr. Christopher Gobler of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science will establish a baseline for water quality across the village’s most important economic and recreational resource — its bayfront.

Testing will be performed at Havens Beach, near the Sag Harbor wastewater treatment plant, and at two stations in Sag Harbor Cove, with Dr. Gobler’s team searching for harmful bacteria, algae, nitrogen and other pollutants, while also measuring other quality indicators like acidity, temperature, clarity and salinity.

According to John Shaka, the chairman of the village’s Harbor Committee, which has spearheaded the effort along with concerned community members, the group hopes to add at least one more testing site and — if additional funding can be found —expand Dr. Gobler’s ability to dig into the data, pinpointing sources of contamination when they are discovered.

This kind of effort is long past due. Currently, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services tests the water at Havens Beach, especially after major rain storms, to ensure that the water quality there meets bathing standards. The state Department of Environmental Conservation conducts periodic testing inside the breakwater and in Sag Harbor Cove and the village itself is required to test the outflow from its sewage treatment plant. But this work intends to be more comprehensive and could open up opportunities for the village to apply for funding through the Community Preservation Fund to undertake more comprehensive efforts to improve water quality.

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