A dead zone that re-appeared in Lake George’s south basin for the 23rd consecutive year this past summer is proof, if proof were required, of the need for greener land use practices, lake protection organizations argue.
The zone is an area depleted of oxygen and devoid of life that extends from Lake George Village to Tea Island, said Peter Bauer, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George.
“It forms in the south basin rather than in the northern basins, not because land use practices are better in Bolton or Hague, but because more tributaries flow into that basin,” said Bauer. “It’s truly the canary in the mine-shaft, a warning of future water quality trends if we don’t improve our land-use practices.”
Said Walt Lender, the executive director of the Lake George Association, “Now is the time to take action before it’s too late, or too expensive, to reverse these trends.”
According to Larry Eichler, the research scientist from the Darrin Fresh Water Institute who first discovered the dead zone in the 1980s, stream waters in the south basin drain the most developed slopes of the lake, carrying harmful nutrients with them.
“If we had less phosphorus loading, we’d have less algae,” said Eichler.
As Eichler explains, too much algae is a sign that nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are finding their way into the lake and depriving lake beds of the oxygen needed to sustain fish life.
Those nutrients, said Bauer, can be traced to fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and aging septic systems.
The West Brook Conservation Initiative, a $10 million project that will, when completed, absorb nutrients through wetlands, ponds and fields at the former site of Gaslight Village, will help restore water quality in the south basin, said Bauer.
“West Brook is the largest single source of pollution to Lake George,” said Bauer.
According to Walt Lender, ninety percent of the phosphorus that now finds its way into Lake George through West Brook would be removed at Gaslight Village.
“West Brook contributes substantial amounts of phosphorus,” said Larry Eichler. “Removing it at Gaslight Village would have a significant impact on oxygen-deprived areas.”
While the dead zone is currently limited to the south basin, it could expand and move into other parts of the lake, said Eichler.
That’s why Bauer and Lender say more steps should be taken to use better land practices throughout the basin.
“A dead zone could be controlled and even eliminated through improved property management by landowners that reduces green lawns, prohibits use of fertilizers, improves maintenance of septic systems, and utilizes robust shoreline and stream buffers,” said Bauer. “Stricter and better enforced stormwater and septic system regulations by local municipalities are also vitally important.”
Both The Fund for Lake George and the Lake George Association also support passage of the Lake George Park Commission’s proposed stream corridor regulations.
“Stream buffers are the most effective way of protecting the lake from all manner of pollutants, contaminants and nutrients,” said Peter Bauer.
The Commission has announced that it is not yet ready to schedule a new round of public hearings on proposed rules.
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