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Udall’s Pond Restoration: Inching Closer

Udall’s Pond has played a vital environmental role in the health of the watershed on the peninsula, but due to the silt that has washed into the pond over the years, it has become more and more shallow, less beneficial to a diverse wildlife population and less able to handle flooding conditions. Last August when we reported on the status of the project to restore the pond to its former vitality, the big issue was funding.

County Legislator Judi Bosworth has kept her promise to make the restoration of the pond a high priority and is pleased to report that the struggle to get county funding, with the support and cooperation of the new county administration, has succeeded. Bonding is approved at $7 million which will not only cover the costs of the dredging and new plantings, but will fund an educational component for a boardwalk that will extend into the wetlands.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not given its final stamp of approval yet and continues to study the plans. One of the main concerns of the DEC is the actual composition of the sediment. Nassau County hydrogeologist Brian Schneider who has been very involved in the design of the project had told us that preliminary boring samples of the sediment showed that it was “contaminated but not toxic.”  The material to be removed by dredging and its ultimate disposal is evaluated by the DEC based on two factors, toxicity and consistency. The sediment tells a historical story of the environmental movement itself, the deeper the samples go. Sometimes, older sediment levels are more toxic, as they bear evidence of run-off of toxic substances that were not regulated years ago. If the deeper sediment grain size is sandy in its consistency, and does not contain unacceptable levels of toxins, it is easier and less expensive to dispose of, being used “upland” as landfill or clean-fill in construction sites. If it is a “fine” grain, it could be used as a road paving material. The DEC scrutinizes a dredging project closely, especially when it’s in an area that, while not pristine, is relatively biologically productive.

The DEC wants to be sure that stirring up the past, by way of settled contaminents that would be disturbed, will not adversely affect water quality and the health of the area for wildlife. Sediment may contain heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals that do not break down or degrade.

Mr. Schneider tells the Record that he recently met with staff of the DEC to clarify any questions they might have about the project. He felt the meeting was very productive and he is resubmitting test results from borings that DEC staff need to make a final decision.

The proposed dredging work itself would be done by bringing in a floating barge mounted with a hydraulic dredge mechanism that is touted as having the least impact on the environment. After the dredged material is sucked up, it would then be pumped into geo-tubes,  using a process something like stuffing a sausage casing. These custom sized tubes, which are porous, would drain, dry and then be cut into lengths to fit on trucks which would haul them to the proper designated destination. The staging area for the tubes and trucks would be on a parcel owned by the county that is east of the bridge and north of the pond. After the work, that area would also be replanted if need be.

Legislator Bosworth has been in touch with DEC, Region 1, Regional Director Peter Scully to monitor the progress of the review by his office. She said, “We know that the DEC’s review is important to make sure that there are no deleterious unintended consequences of the restoration project.”