With evidence that levels of coliform bacteria have remained low in Wickham Creek since 2009, Trustee and water quality expert John Bredemeyer and Cutchogue resident Wally McGahan asked the Town Board on Tuesday for support in getting the creek open to shellfishing again.
Bredemeyer suggested that the formation of a shellfish committee would help convince the Department of Environmental Conservation to accept water samples taken by Trustees and by a group of neighbors on Wickham Creek led by McGahan. For years, those neighbors have studied the health of the creek, McGahan said.
“We decided to get knowledgeable about what was going on with the creek,” said McGahan, who’s lived on the creek since the 1950s and said he’s spent his whole life in research. He worked with experts at in Southold to determine why the bacterial levels were high, where the pollution was coming from — and why the creek seems to be cleaning itself now.
“The waters are quite pristine these days — I see no reason why it should not be recertified and opened for shellfishing again,” he said.
, Bredemeyer said that it is unclear what pollution sources cause higher levels of bacteria at certain times in Wickham Creek. and from an influx of geese washed into the creeks from heavy rainfall can result in spikes of coliform levels, and that waste can theoretically become trapped in thick mud at the bottom of the creek.
“But shellfishing is done in the sandier parts of the creek, not that mud,” McGahan said.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell agreed that a formation of a shellfish committee would help support smaller groups like the neighbors at Wickham Creek to get through mandates of the Town’s MS4 stormwater management program and meet their own goals.
"The MS4 mandates that we take care of other creeks first, and that presents a huge challenge in dealing with the DEC," Russell said.