AYER -- An $83,000 survey of six town ponds received no negative feedback at a public hearing last Wednesday, when the Community Preservation Committee chose to support partial funding for the project.
The survey will collect information from water samples, vegetation surveys and more to help the town craft a long-term management plan for its ponds. The study will also document the number of invasive aquatic vegetation and pollutant sources.
Chuck Miller of the Pond and Dam Management Committee explained that a byproduct of the study would be an action plan for ponds, which have been historically funded in spikes.
"Our desire would be to actually have pond management, from one end of the town to the other, as part of our budget, the same way other resources are cared for in town," he said.
Laurie Nehring, from PACE (People of Ayer Concerned for the Environment), said the study seemed like a holistic plan for looking at all of the causes of invasive species and plant issues in the ponds.
"If we can get to the point where we're resolving the issue as best as we're able to by eliminating whatever those sources might be, then, hopefully, in the long run we're cutting back on the need for pesticides and herbicides that we've had to continually use as a Band-Aid to keep the problem in control," she said.
The funding is split among different resources -- $15,000 to come from the Department of Public Works, $10,000 from money the Dam and Pond Management Committee received last year and $40,000 in free cash to be considered at Town Meeting.
The last $20,000 will come from the town's Community Preservation Act fund, which voters will also have to approve in late April.
The assessment, conducted by Geosyntec, will also look at the risk of contact with surface water and sediment at Grove Pond. A tannery operated near the pond's corner as early as 1854 and dumped its untreated waste into the pond until 1953.
The Grove Pond sampling is an important aspect of the study, said Conservation Commissioner Bill Daniels.
"One of the reasons that this is so huge is because obviously some of our most treasured resources for recreation and for the kids in town are the ball parks, the soccer fields and the playground, which are all located right on Grove Pond," he said.
A previous study conducted by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that contaminant levels at the surface water and sediment of the pond posed no likely harmful exposure.
But Nehring said she did not think it was a great study.
"I never really trusted the results because they were limited, so it might be interesting to have an outside person to come in and really evaluate the study," she said. She also suggested including interviews with PACE members, who have a lot of background on the matter.
The assessment will include the Sandy, Long, Fletcher's, Grove, Pine Meadow and Balch ponds.
Ed Kelley of Oak Ridge Drive asked why the survey would not include a small pond near Pine Meadow Pond known as Rock Meadow Pond, where a dam broke in 2011 and ushered about 19 million gallons of water across the area of Oak Ridge Drive.
Daniels said the commission views the pond as more of a transient water body.
"We're not treating it as a pond because it isn't a pond," he said. "It's a trapped body of water behind a beaver dam."
But, he said, the commission will be working with the DPW to install a "beaver deceiver" device to reduce the amount of water in the pond.
The CPC voted to support financing the last $20,000 for the survey, which will come from the CPA fund that is financed by a one percent property tax surcharge and matched by the state.
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