Greenwich agency approves dredging of Binney Park Pond

July 28, 2016

GREENWICH — A town agency has given its approval to a project that many residents say is years overdue — the dredging of Binney Park pond.

But don’t expect the islands of silt there to disappear anytime soon.

“We’ll be starting around this time next year, assuming we obtain the budget to do the project,” Deputy Commissioner of Public Works James Michel told members of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency this week. “We believe we can do that.”

The agency on Monday approved a project to dredge the pond, with the stipulation that the removed silt — expected to be as much as 9,500 cubic yards — be moved off-site and disposed of in a responsible manner.

The pond, last dredged in 1997, is marred by large deposits that have been slowly growing and collecting trash.

Officials said they do not know how much the work could cost, but last time the pond was dredged the price tag was about $1 million.

The DPW as part of the project is seeking to adopt measures to keep the pond from returning to its current state once it’s cleared.

In 2013, the town committed $100,000 to a study to find out where the sediment comes from and how it can be stopped.

Much of the silt could be coming from Cider Mill Brook from the northwest and another brook that originates in Stamford and flows from the east, officials said Monday.

The proposed plan is to construct forebays that would collect and direct the silt from those two sources, said Senior Wetland Analyst Robert Clausi. The project also calls for annual dredging to maintain the quality of the pond.

Michel said neighbors had not yet been told about the work, but would be given more information in a public meeting when the approval and funding process had advanced further.

Last week dozens of dead fish accumulated near the southern shores of the pond — an occurrence officials said was likely unrelated to the silt problem.

Conservation Director Denise Savageau said the fish were probably killed when an abundance of saltwater and fish washed over a dam separating the pond from Long Island Sound at an extraordinarily high tide brought on by the full moon. She said the incident did not have to do with pollution, despite the oily sheen that was visible across part of the pond and trash getting stuck in the silt.

Michael Long, director of the Division of Environmental Services at the Greenwich Health Department, said the town tests the two major rivers — the Mianus and Byram — on a quarterly basis, but doesn’t test the water quality of ponds in town unless it receives a complaint.

“If we get a complaint where testing is warranted, we would sometimes do that,” Long said. “We can’t do everything. It’s sporadic, I would say.”

It seemed reasonable that the fish were killed because they were saltwater fish stranded in fresh water, he said, so his department decided not to expend resources on performing a test.

He said he couldn’t recall a complaint that resulted in a test of Binney Park pond in recent years, but late last week, after the fish kill, his department received a complaint from a neighbor living upstream about a smell of excrement emanating from a brook.

“We had the inspector take some samples and it did appear to be sewage,” Long said. “But we went back the next day with the (Sewer Division) and it appeared to be cleared up.”

He said the Sewer Division found no evidence of leaks in any pipes in the surrounding area. No tests were taken downstream, or in Binney Pond.

“The sample looked bad, but after a day of sitting it seemed to have flown through,” Long said.

pfrissell@hearstmediact.com; @PeregrineFriss