The Vineyard Gazette can provide an enormous public service in helping to increase understanding and awareness by Island residents about the bacterial problems in Sengekontacket Pond. The recent Gazette article Sengekontacket from Nov. 30, however, makes several errors of fact that fuel public misconceptions.
The water samples taken for the recent round of specialized bacterial testing conducted by University of New Hampshire total five, not 48 as reported: two in Sengekontacket and one each in Trapps, Farm and Eel Ponds. Two samples from a 700-plus-acre water body do not provide representative results. From those five samples 48 isolates were taken, of which 37 or 77 per cent (not 79 per cent) were identified. This means that we do not know what nearly a quarter of the isolates are. While 32 isolates (not 33) came from birds, only one was from cormorants; 67 per cent (not 69 per cent) of all isolates (not samples) taken and 86 (not 87 per cent) of all isolates (not samples) identified are birds. From Sengekontacket Pond 60 per cent of identified isolates are birds. Thus, almost a third of the isolates from Sengekontacket Pond were not able to be identified.
The report of these test results does not blame birds and dogs for pollution as the Gazette’s inside page headline claims. Based on the test results in hand ascientist might questionif these test results are definitive because:
• The few samples taken aredistant in time after the state report of bacterial contamination.
• Samples are limited to two physical locations of a very large water body.
• Samples were not taken from various levels of the water column and many isolates remain unidentified.
Friends of Sengekontacket Inc. asks the residents and town officials of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs to work with us to reach rational and supportable conclusions by:
• Carefully studying these initial test results to understand exactly what meaning they hold.
• Building on this initial testing step through collection of enough data (further testing as well as site surveys of animals and birds) to reach valid conclusions.
Friends of Sengekontacket will continue to work with town shellfish constables, Dukes County, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and all interested stakeholders to identify causes of bacterial contamination and find effective solutions to improve water quality in Sengekontacket Pond.
The friends group provides funds from grants and contributions for pond testing and studies and hands-on volunteer programs such as beach grass planting and the Carry In/Carry Out program. We need everyone’s help.
Terry Appenzeller lives in Oak Bluffs and is president of the Friends of Sengekontacket.