Fishing derby returns to Cornell Pond for environmental monitoring

Sep 23, 2023

For the first time in four years, the Re-Solve Superfund Site Group’s fishing derby returned to Cornell Pond. The derby is a method of collecting specific fish species for environmental monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The monitoring effort follows a decades-long cleanup for the contaminated site, which is just upstream from Cornell Pond. 

Weston Solutions, the operator of the Re-Solve site, typically hosts a fishing derby to turn the environmental monitoring into a community activity. 

“This is a cool way to get the community involved,” said Bob Wagner, biologist at Weston Solutions. “The pond is a big deal for the community, people really love this pond, a couple of these guys come every day to fish here.” 

One of those guys is Dave Mendonca: he’s retired and fishes nearly every day at Cornell Pond. 

Mendonca said he appreciates the chance to see other fishers he hasn’t seen in a long time, and “it makes it fun to have a little competition.”

From 1956 to 1980, the Re-Solve site was a chemical reclamation facility which handled many hazardous materials improperly and contaminated the soil and groundwater. The site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1983 and has been the subject of numerous cleanup efforts since. 

The collection of fish samples helps determine whether the levels of a specific chemical in the fish are continuing to decline over time, which they are, said Melanie Morash, Remedial Project Manager for the EPA’s New England region. 

Fishing was slow in the Saturday morning rain, but the Re-Solve group got almost all of the samples they needed, except for a catfish, which they’ll need to get on their own. Mendonca said he has not seen anyone catch a catfish in the pond all year. 

Though fishing is allowed at the pond, fishers must throw their catches back in, as they are not safe for human consumption. 

Another fisherman, Lucas Utter said he’ll come to any fishing derby he knows about, but thinks the Cornell Pond derby is “a nice way for them to complete their work.”

The Re-Solve Site Group is made up of over 200 “potentially responsible parties,” companies or entities that may have sent waste to the site, Morash said. Throughout the year, that group is required to do groundwater and surface water sampling, and the fish tissue sampling is another part of that.