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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Wallenpaupack water quality 'holding its own'

  • LAKE REGION- Another positive report was given on the status of Lake Wallenpaupack water quality July 15th, when Edward Molesky, Aqua Link Inc. presented his summary of 2013 lake monitoring data.
    Based on samples taken at two fixed stations on the lake, the overall state of the ecology shows that the lake is holding its own, with some gradual improvement.
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  • LAKE REGION- Another positive report was given on the status of Lake Wallenpaupack water quality July 15th, when Edward Molesky, Aqua Link Inc. presented his summary of 2013 lake monitoring data.
        Based on samples taken at two fixed stations on the lake, the overall state of the ecology shows that the lake is holding its own, with some gradual improvement.
       Phosphorous levels are down and transparency (referred to as secchi depth) is up, both which are good things, he said. Levels of nitrogen and chlorophyll-a are slightly up, but not alarming, Molesky said.
       On the other hand, one member of the audience had concerns about localized areas such as in coves which seem to differ with the summary data.
    ••• Collecting data
       
          Aqua Link Inc. is under contract by the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District (LWWMD), a non-profit partnership of local stake-holders overseeing the environmental quality of the 5,700 acre lake and its 219-square mile drainage area.
       Data has been collected regularly by LWWMD since 1980. The growing baseline of information is showing that despite developmental pressures and increased recreational usage of the waters, the lake shows steady progress in overcoming the degraded water quality over three decades before.
        Molesky attributed the results to the committed and diligent work of LWWMD, which has acted as a funnel for grants and donations used to correct or prevent pollution sources, as well as public education efforts. The LWWMD was organized in 1979 as a direct response to the pollution concerns.
         Samples are taken monthly, May through October, at Station #3, near the center of the lake, and Station #5, in the Ledgedale area close to the inlet of the main stem of Wallenpaupack Creek. The Watershed District boat is used, piloted by District Administrator Nick Spinelli.
        Measures are taken of dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature, pH and dissolved solids. Samples are analyzed under the microscope for types of nitrogen and phosphorous- nutrients that contributed to the growth of algae; algae known as chlorophyll-a and photo-plankton, and zooplankton.
         Photo-plankton, in sufficient number, presents itself as a green shade in the water. Zooplankton are small crustaceans which feed on the algae.
        Speaking to the LWWMD board and visitors at the PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center, Molesky said that 2013 was a "typical year." The summer depth averaged 35 to 40 feet, and as expected, cold water was on the bottom and warm on top.
    ••• Staying the course
        He categorized Lake Wallenpaupack as "highly mesotrophic/ slightly eutrophic." A mesotrophic lake is one with an intermediate level of productivity of algae. A eutrophic body of water is one with high biological activity caused by an excessive amount of nutrients.
    Page 2 of 4 -     Lakes with a very low level of algae and considered very clear, are termed "oligotrophic." The highest level is "hypereutrophic", characterized by severe and frequent pea green surface algae blooms and low transparency.
        He said the lake "has been staying the course over five years, which is really good. There's been no grand improvement and no disaster." Molesky likened it to having a medical check-up and getting a good report.
       Among the graphs he presented, he showed how overall, summer temperatures over the last several years have been increasing in the Poconos, although they were cooler last year. He noted 2013 also was relatively dry.
        Molesky recommended that further monitoring from other stations would not be necessary he said the more the data the better, but the expenses must be considered. He said it was important to keep the same laboratory so that methodologies will be consistent when comparing yearly data and looking for trends.
       One man in the audience asked if there was any study results from before 1980. He said he can remember as a boy in the 1950's, that the lake was "extremely clear."
       Sporadic data was taken before 1980, Spinelli noted, but it was mostly done by private citizens. Not knowing the methodologies used, it is hard to compare the information.
    ••• Stream sampling
       Keith Williamson, District board member and manager of the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center /Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau, inquired if testing has been done on the tributaries leading to Wallenpaupack. Spinelli stated that the Pike County Conservation District has been monitoring streams for about 20 years. There has been some monitoring on the Wayne County side when funding was available.
       It costs approximately $20,000 a year just to monitor the lake, Spinelli said. If they monitored only two tributaries there would not have a good idea of pollution sources. To do more streams, the cost would be very costly.
        Dr. Craig Williamson, a liminologist who does research at Lacawac Sanctuary, suggested a better picture of water quality while being cost effective may be possible by sampling the lake only in July and August and sampling the tributaries in the other months.
       Spinelli stated that a stream study done in 2004/2005 showed that the main stem of the Wallenpaupack Creek was the biggest contributor of nutrients, followed by Ariel Creek. The majority of farm operations in the watershed are found in the west, where nutrients from barnyards lead to the main stem.
       Molesky noted that grant availability comes in cycles. Automated equipment could be used to monitor streams, but the costs sky rocket due to maintenance cost.
    ••• Delay fall draw-down?
    Page 3 of 4 -     Another man asked about the timing of the annual lake draw-down by PPL in October. Molesky commented that it would be nice if the draw-down could wait until November when the water is cooler.  By drawing the water level down when the warmer water is layered over the cold bottom layer, nutrients are churned. He said it was only a theory, but a later draw-down may discourage autumn algae growth from occurring.
        Another man inquired about why some people are getting allergic reactions to the water in Wallenpaupack; her referred to Martin's Cove in particular.
       Molesky said some people could be more sensitive to algae. Blue-green algae, especially, can case a rash or in a big concentration may create respiratory issues.
       The man asked if any study was done of contributing factors to water quality from coves with high traffic of people, such as "Party Cove."  
        Molesky said that the present monitoring program gives a good pulse on the ecological health of the lake but if there are more localized issues he is sure LWWMD would like to know. Spinelli suggested that 100 boats in a cove could make a slight change but there is a great deal of water circulating out there. He noted that water quality conditions can change vastly in just a few days. Changeable weather is one factor. Finding a specific cause is difficult.
        Spinelli reminded there is only so much budget dollars to study the lake.
        Molesky questioned the man in the audience if the people having an allergic reaction in one area get the same reaction in other spots in Wallenpaupack.
    ••• What homeowners can do   
     
        A question came about what can homeowners due to help keep the lake pure. Good stewardship and proper homeowner practices are encouraged by the LWWMD. Septic systems more easily consume plants and produce more nutrients than natural sources, Spinelli noted.
       He advised being sure your community association had a septic system policy and storm water management plan. The LWWMD tries to get homeowners not to direct storm water onto roads and into streams.
        He said it is tough because most developments were built before modern storm water regulations. Older communities around the lake have homes much closer together.
        LWWMD distributes a brochure entitled, "Chicken Soup for Lake Wallenpaupack." Steps that people can do which are listed, include avoiding detergents and soap containing phosphorus, not washing the car or boat near the lake or stream, and by never dumping toxins like paint, paint thinners wood preservatives and solvents down the sink. Donations to the LWWMD will assist their efforts to keep the lake clean.
    Page 4 of 4 -     The LWWMD web site contains information for good lake management practices, and links to other agencies giving information. See www.wallenpaupackwatershed.org.

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