Friday, March 03, 2006

Farewell to a Friend of Hempstead Harbor

One morning a week from May to November, Mike Caputo, captain of the Town of Oyster Bay’s Boston whaler, has headed west, out of his home port in Oyster Bay, to Tappen Beach on neighboring Hempstead Harbor, where the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor’s Carol DiPaolo waited at the town dock.

Together, Mike and Carol would then ply the waters of the harbor. Their mission: to collect water samples from up to eight locations for delivery to Nassau County laboratory technicians. Once aboard, the samples would be analyzed, either on the boat or at the lab, for key water quality indicators such as ammonia, nitrogen, acidity, coliform and enterococci bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and salinity. Observations about the tidal cycle, water and air temperature, water surface conditions, wind direction and velocity, rainfall, cloud cover and general weather conditions during monitoring would also be gathered.

This collaboration, over many testing seasons and, often, on a shoestring budget, has produced an impressive body of data about Hempstead Harbor that marine researchers will mine for many years to come.

Sadly, on Sunday, February 19, Mike Caputo died suddenly at his home. The cause of death is as yet unknown. He was 50 years of age. His passing is a loss for all the waterfront communities on Hempstead Harbor, and, by extension, everyone everywhere who benefits from improving the water quality of Long Island Sound. “Working with Carol on the water sampling was the part of his job that Mike enjoyed most,” says Eric Swenson, a friend and colleague of Mike’s, as well as Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee.

Often the programs that produce the most positive and desperately needed results require the cooperation of many levels of government, as well as the participation of nonprofit organizations and community groups. The water quality monitoring effort in Hempstead Harbor is just such an effort. Mike Caputo was key. He will be missed by many. His impressive wake will be remembered for many years to come.

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