By Matthew DeRenzo
Two William Paterson students are investigating whether fish that died in a university pond on Valley Road were killed by air-conditioning fluid dumped there by university employees.
Environmental science majors Kathy Surlak and Ksawery Biskup are researching their capstone project on whether fish in the pond at 1600 Valley Road died from glycol poisoning.
The university has denied that the fish died from pollution.
“The fish actually died from an algae bloom, not from pollution,” said Steve Boylai, William Paterson’s Vice President for Administration and Finance. “During the summer there was an algae bloom caused by a lot of heavy rain and also from the warm weather we were having.”
Boylai was referring to a harmful algal bloom, a rapid increase in the population of algae in a water system that produces toxins, depletes oxygen, and blocks sunlight, often leading to the death of fish.
Bob Considine, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, told the Pioneer Times that the agency, working with the Passaic County Health Department determined that the death of the fish was “most likely” caused by stagnation and excessive heat over the summer, leading to low oxygen levels.
“There was no indication of any runoff or introduction of chemicals from the roof drains or from direct dumping from the pond,” Considine explained in an email.
Considine stated that the pond’s aeration system was not functioning well enough to sustain the fish in extended periods of hot weather.
The agency recommended the modification of the system or the installation of “a pump spray/fountain type aeration system” to correct the issue.
The Wayne Township Health Department did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Surlak and Biskup said that Kevin Garvey, the director of physical plant operations at William Paterson told them that the Passaic County Mosquito Control put at least one thousand minnow fish into the pond on the same day the DEP performed clean oxygen tests.
Surlak and Biskup are performing a cup-sampling experiment to check for the three main components of a chemical test, water, sediment and soil.
They used a device called a WISI parameter reader, which dissolves oxygen in water, and provides the temperature, conductivity, and pH balance, a measure of acidity.
The students are also measuring the amounts of sand, silt and clay in the pond in order to understand its composition more thoroughly.
They are also testing the water in Grebe Pond, near Hobart Hall, to compare the contamination levels with 1600 Valley Road. The students expect to finish their project at the end of November.