The marine life at Wantagh Mill Pond is a little safer now that hundreds of pounds of a harmful aquatic plant have been removed from the water, for the first time.
On June 15, county and state officials and volunteers hand-removed about 80 bags at 35 pounds each of an invasive species of water chestnut that threaten the Pond’s inhabitants and environment and reduces recreational freshwater fishing. They worked from kayaks and canoes, off-loading the pulled material on shore for disposal.
Officials with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation along with the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District and Long Island Invasive Species Management Area participated in the water chestnut pull, which was concentrated on the East Side of the spillway. A second water chestnut removal is being planned by environmental officials.
Invasive species are non-native species that can cause harm to the environment, the economy or to human health. Water chestnuts are a risk at the Wantagh Mill Pond because they form dense mats of vegetation that shade out native aquatic plants. which provide food and shelter for wildlife. As the dense mats decompose, dissolved oxygen levels drop, which can kill fish. Water chestnuts also have seedpods with very sharp spines that can cause painful wounds when stepped on. Seeds can remain viable for up to 12 years, making it difficult to eliminate infestations.
Environmental officials warned that those who do fish at Mill Pond, make sure to sufficiently clean, drain and dry their fishing and wading equipment to remove plants and seed pods to prevent moving them to another location. The DEC’s website notes to pay particular attention to places where seedpods can become stuck, such as on clothing or pet fur and to dispose of all debris in trashcans or far from water.
The 15-acre Mill Pond site in a long and narrow 54-acre preserve in Wantagh just to the west of the Wantagh State Parkway on the north side of Merrick Road. The large pond draws numerous native waterfowl, along with nature trails that wind through a wet woodland. Previously called Jones Pond, Wantagh Mill Pond is a popular fishing spot with one of the most diverse fish communities in Nassau County. Fish species include Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Yellow and White Perch, Carp and American Eel.