By: Vivica Michel and Isabelle Desilier
A $2,000 temporary soft boom water barrier was set up on Feb. 13 in Mills Pond, Centerport to absorb oil-based contaminants and other pollutants and keep bald eagles in the area safe.
The soft boom, a 300-foot-long barrier made up of cellular fibers, was placed in the pond directly in front of the former Thatched Cottage catering facility, which is now under construction, to block any debris from contaminating the water.
“Local residents have relayed their concerns about the water quality near the construction site at the Mill Pond sea wall,” Lauren Lembo, Public Information Officer of Centerport, said. “However all test results and visual inspection by the town, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and County have returned zero contamination results to date.”
Mills Pond is the home to a family of bald eagles that took residence in Centerport two years ago. During a town meeting on Feb. 8, Centerport residents complained to Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci about construction of Water’s Edge that could be endangering the bald eagles.
“Supervisor Lupinacci and our Maritime Services Department offered to install the soft boom adjacent to the seawall at the construction site to provide assurances of zero water contamination and offer a proactive, preventive measure to help allay the residents’ concerns for local water quality and the safety of local bald eagles,” Lembo said.
Mills Pond is one example of water contamination on Long Island, which is known for having bad quality. The Long Island Water Conference reported earlier this month that toxin 1,4 Dioxane was found in 70 percent of Long Island wells.
“The water quality is continually decreasing if Long Island doesn’t change their ways,” Christopher Clapp, a Long Island marine scientist of the Nature Conservancy of the New York division, said. “We won’t see any change or degradation of the water quality in five, or even 10 years. Change is generational.The changes made in past generations are what allowed the bald eagles to come back.
“I am calling it official,” Robert Schwartz, administrator of the Bald Eagles of Centerport Facebook page, wrote on Feb. 22. Schwartz posted a video of one of the bald eagles laying their eggs in their nest. “With Dad by Mom’s side at 16:00:47 seconds it happened,” he said.
The Bald Eagles of Centerport, a Facebook group of over 10,000 followers, focuses on observing and protecting the family of bald eagles in their community, have rallied against the catering facility construction. Some of its members argue that contaminated runoff would pollute the water and endanger the eagles and their new hatchlings.
“I have seen people pull up over by the Fire Department’s parking lot to take pictures,” Kate Hoey, a Centerport resident works at a bakery across the street from the pond, said. “They also sit on the bridge on the pond and wait for them.”
Back in July 2018, the town came together and rallied again when they had noticed that the eagles’ nest was near a power pole. They were able to get protective equipment installed over the poles, so that the birds will no longer be in danger.
The official results for the New York State DEC testing of the pond will be available the second week of March.