While the verdict is still out on the quality of water entering Sherwood Mill Pond, the amount of sand filling up the pond has already been identified as a problem.
The Sherwood Mill Pond Advisory Committee met Thursday to discuss progress in having neighborhood residents connect to their homes to the town's sewer system to mitigate pollutants leaching into the pond. They also heard an overall summary of the property from Jeff Northrop, a local landowner who holds the rights to oyster fishing in the pond.
"The pond is cleaning up," he said, "but now they've classified the water from the Sound as unclean ... so the pond will never be so you can eat stuff out of it."
"But our biggest problem, and my largest concern right now, is (the) massive sand buildup," he said. "We have a massive amount of sand, but it came from Sherwood Island."
Committee members agreed that work done by the state to move sand onto beaches to the east has, because of currents, also caused a large amount of sand to filter into the pond.
"Years ago the state came down and they put tons of sand along the cove," said Allen Raymond Jr., committee member. It was part of an effort to improve the beach at Sherwood Island, where large amounts of old broken mussel shells often cut visitors' feet.
"I was standing there and I said, `You know, this is all going to disappear,' " Raymond said of the deposited sand. "And it did," finding its way into the mill pond.
"It's going to continue to migrate from Sherwood Island," said Sherry Jagerson, committee chairwoman.
Northrop, who owns Westport Aquaculture, said he lost half his oyster crop because of sand that inundated their beds because of Superstorm Sandy.
"You can bury clams, even," he said. "Oysters can get silt on them and they die like that."
Committee members also pointed out that the accumulation of sand in the pond means the water is more often displaced not only during storm surges, but even at high tide. "Which means there's going to be more flooding around," said member Wally Meyer.
Alicia Mozian, the town's conservation director, suggested the committee review a 2006 report by Land-Tech Consultants, Inc., commissioned by the Conservation Department on issues concerning the pond.
"It does make some recommendations," she said. "Maybe we ought to revisit it again to see what recommendations have been reached and what others ones are in here that we can still implement."
The committee agreed to review the document independently and will discuss it at its next meeting on Feb. 28.
According to Northrop, "most of the people there are now hooked up to sewer," he said, but there are exceptions. He said that, according to town ordinance, once a septic system is more than 20 years old, the property owner is required to change over to the sewer system, as well as certain new construction and repairs.
"It's been a massive thing," he said. "We've been fighting to clean up this pond for 35 years."
"I guess the frustrating part is that environmental protection comes at a snail's pace," said Mozian.