Water In a Lake and In Our Cups
By Andrea Schuettinger
“Finite and fragile, minuscule but majestic: air and water, the fluids of life.
…’water come alive,’ a miracle that embellishes all the miracles I’ve seen.”
— Jacques Cousteau
On a cool winter day I stood along the shoreline ofLakeAgawamand for the first time I noticed its lifelessness. Sadly I walked and passed by discarded garbage along the waters edge. The lake has been polluted for years as a result of storm run off, increased nutrients that cause toxic bacteria, and algae blooms that has resulted in fish kills. Although I could have placed the problem on my “things that pretty much just blow list” along with animal testing on cute bunnies for eyeliner; I decided to imagine a solution.
Lake Agawam is situated in Southampton close to the Atlantic Ocean and was given the aquatic title of freshwater wetland by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Hamptons community needs to appreciate the lakes ecological value. And also understand the importance and vulnerability of our water supply that is from ground water.SouthamptonVillagewas given the power to protectLakeAgawamas a wetland by the DEC in 1991. Additionally it was given the title of lake by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Concerned citizens, like members of the Lake Agawam Association and a few officials have been key to
recent restoration efforts. Community unity, caring, and commitment are essential for preservingSouthampton’s aquatic systems.
Wetlands are areas that have unique hydrological cycles and contain plants, soil, and wildlife that can exist within the water cycle. Some wetlands are saturated only for days, while others likeLakeAgawamare yearly water bodies. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has stated that coastal wetlands are an imperiled habitat. The EPA reports that wetlands are essential for biodiversity, 45% of all endangered and threatened species depend on them at some point in their life cycle. Also, according to Audubon 80% of endangered birds depend on wetlands and they are important for migrating birds. Unfortunately most of the natural habitat that is essential for wildlife surroundingLakeAgawamis lawn. What does this mean for the community ofSouthampton? Less time in cleaning bird droppings: very little chance of seeing an unrecognized wild animal crossing the roads: lots of short grass to place towels and chairs when listening to music at theLakeAgawamconcert series. Although these are probably the most popular conclusions of our community the truth is that Southampton is being deprived of a valuable natural resource that would provide economic revenue through ecofriendly recreational activities such as bird watching and fishing.LakeAgawamis one of the last coastal freshwater wetlands inAmericaand would be an excellent educational opportunity for children, students, and visitors to enjoy
The chemicals that are placed on the beautiful lawns and trees in the watershed area ofLakeAgawamsuch as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides,
insecticides and fungicides has the potential to further contaminateLakeAgawamand infiltrate our ground water systems. We might run, play, drink, and bathe in these chemicals because the South Forks water supply system has only one aquifer plus private wells to supply its population; this makes our water source extremely vulnerable to contamination. The entire South Fork is a watershed area to our one aquifer and all the water we drink is from ground water supplies.
In 2001-2004 the USGS conducted water tests inSouthamptonandEasthamptonto help with water management and our developing communities. They found in their research that tested water contained toxins; “Water quality constituents include nutrients, low-level pesticides, and volatile organic compounds.” Pesticides, which in NYS include herbicides and fungicides, are dangerous to have in our water supply. According to a testimony given to the President’s Cancer Panel:
“The National Toxicology Program has found in animal bioassays that a number of widely used pesticides are carcinogenic. Case-control epidemiology studies, most of them relatively small in size, have found
consistent, modest associations between pesticide exposure in utero and in early childhood and acute lymphocytic leukemia, childhood brain cancer
and childhood non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma….The rates of childhood leukemia
are consistently elevated among children who grow up on farms, among children whose parents use pesticides in the home or garden, and among children of pesticide applicators.”