Contributed by Beth Bauer
Town Hall Meeting on Lake Status
On Thursday evening, September 8, John Tucci from Lake Savers addressed some 200 residents at the invitation of the Board of Directors in the Community Center. The meeting lasted almost two hours. Tucci specifically talked about his company, Lake Savers, the challenge of restoring Lake Heritage to a healthy status, what has been done this summer and the game plan for the future.
Lake Savers has been working with communities all over the United States who are facing similar problems to what Lake Heritage is experiencing. These problems are mainly oxygen depletion, increased levels of phosphorus and large amounts of sediment on the floor of the lake that fuels algae growth. They have worked with lakes in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas, Puerto Rico, California and Florida.
Tucci shared that Lake Savers was chosen by the Board of Directors after the prior company that handled the Lake, Aquatic Environmental Consultants, determined that solely treating the Lake with copper sulfate was no longer a viable option to reduce or eliminate algae. Lake Savers was chosen because of their proven track record of improving lake health and solving weed and algae problems naturally. Matt Verdirame, Board member and Lake and Dam Committee Chair, shared that committee members had attended several workshops and investigated other firms and methods before recommending Lake Savers.
The plan, according to Tucci, for the Lake this past year has been to restore oxygen levels through the aerators that were placed in the Lake last Fall. In addition, filtration socks were added to the inlets and drains to reduce phosphorus coming into the Lake. This Spring and Summer, biological treatment products were added to the Lake to accelerate muck and nutrient reduction. A product called Nutrizorb was applied to the Lake to increase the long term nutrient absorption capacity of the Lake. As problems arose over the summer, Nutrizorb Fast Acting was applied to the Lake, at Lake Savers cost, to attempt to drive rapid reduction in phosphorus.
Tucci enumerated the significant improvements in the Lake. These include increased oxygen levels in the Lake and reduction of approximately four inches in the sediment at the bottom of the Lake. In answer to a resident’s question later in the meeting, Tucci acknowledged this is an estimate, and a conservative one, based on tests. He shared that actual measurements of sediment reduction would require divers in the lake, the installation of measurement poles, and checking of these poles at various times. Tucci was confident that his estimate is accurate. Tucci also shared that the organic content of the sediment has been reduced by 66%. The phosphorus content of the sediment has been reduced by 88%.
However, Tucci also acknowledged that having a summer when the Lake was not useable most of July and August is not acceptable. He went on to share what has not worked, asking residents to keep in mind the Lake is an ecological system not a pool. The green, filamentous algae that collected in the coves last spring while ugly is not harmful. The Blue-Green algae blooms that began the first week of July were treated and appeared to clear for two weeks. When it returned, additional treatments did not deliver the expected benefits. Also, the aeration system worked well, but more time is needed to see additional improvement.
Going forward, Tucci shared that Lake Savers is developing and evaluating a hybrid plan that will include algaecides next year if needed. They are looking into alternatives to copper sulfate such as peroxide based algaecides. They are considering SeClear copper-based algaecides that also adds phosphorus reducing compound to the formula. Tucci also stated that copper sulfate could be a backup plan. He added that additional aeration heads will be added in the deep end of the Lake. There will be more filtration of drains and inlets, additional Nutrizorb treatments, more testing of phosphorus reducing materials, and the possible use of lake colorant.
During the question and answer period, a wide range of issues were addressed. One of the most pointed was what can we as a community do to help Lake Savers in the quest for a healthy lake? Tucci enumerated several actions. Residents should not rake any leaves into the Lake now that Fall is here. No grass clippings should go into the Lake. Buffer strips instead of grass should happen along the Lake edge. Round-Up cannot be used anywhere near the Lake. If anyone burns leaves or a campfire by the lake, bag the cool ashes and remove from the area. Tucci stated that ashes are like crack cocaine for algae.
Several questions dealt with fertilizer. Tucci stated that, as previously shared with residents, fertilizers must not have phosphorus. Verdirame stated that all companies coming into the Lake for lawn care have been surveyed, and none are using phosphorus. Tucci also added that most lawns are not phosphorus depleted and do not need fertilizer. A suggestion was made that the Board may consider banning fertilizer.
Lake Meade was mentioned as a similar man-made lake of similar age. Currently Lake Meade is clear, has good fishing and swimming conditions and is using Lake Heritage’s prior company, Aquatic Environmental Consultants. Tucci suggested that Lake Meade possibly flushes better, has less farmland surrounding it, and might have better plant communities in the lake.
Towards the end of the meeting, Tucci talked about the filtration system at the intakes of the Lake. He stated that there is a military saying the slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Lake Saver’s plan is to make small changes, see what is working, how it is working and then use this knowledge to move forward. He also stated during the evening that it is important to balance the needs of the Lake with the needs of the community.