Camden County tackling Newton Lake algae

A worker from Princeton Hydro scoops a mat of algae bloom from Newton Lake.
A worker from Princeton Hydro scoops a mat of algae bloom from Newton Lake. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 14, 2013

Camden County has started removing out-of-control algae from Newton Lake, but longer-term measures, including costly dredging, may be needed to maintain it, according to consultants and county officials.

For the bulk of the next two weeks, Princeton Hydro, hired for about $25,000, will work on algae at the lake, which touches parts of Collingswood, Haddon Township, and Oaklyn.

The workers will use an amphibious machine called a Truxor to rake up and remove the algae mats that all spring have been choking the lake and zapping its oxygen.

The company also has applied for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to use an algicide, which officials said would not harm fish or animals at the lake.

It is also taking out aquatic plants and water lilies. By Tuesday's end, 15 eight- by 16-foot barge loads of unwanted greenery had been carted to compost at the county Parks Department's Cherry Hill yard, officials said.

The county spent about $120,000 to install aerators this spring to create water flow to help alleviate the algae growth, but they did not have the desired effect.

"We've tried other options, but they have not been successful. Now, because of the growth and density of the algae, we need to start resolving this issue right away," Freeholder Jeffrey Nash said. "This project will give us a leg up on the algae and provide a possible road map to eradicate it for the future."

A number of factors have made the lake, in a 103-acre park, a fertile area for algae and other aquatic plants.

Besides lack of water flow - the man-made lake is fed only by a small spring - the lake has become quite shallow, allowing light to reach the bottom and photosynthesis to occur. Add to that an unhealthy abundance of the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen.

Storm-water runoff is probably the main contributor, Princeton Hydro president Stephen Souza said.

"That runoff carries with it fertilizer, dog waste, goose waste," Souza said. "It's transporting everything into the lake."

Don't underestimate those omnipresent Canada geese. Souza said that daily, four geese produce as much phosphorus as a single residential septic system.

Fred Stine of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a nonprofit organization of advocates for the river and its tributaries, said "nutrient pollution" has affected many waterways.

Among steps the county should take is to regularly clean out a sediment-collection chamber at the lake, said Stine, of Haddon Township.

Dredging may once again be necessary, Nash said. Portions of the lake were last dredged about 10 years ago at a cost of $1 million.

Adequately maintaining the tree-and-bush buffer zone around the lake will help filter out some of the untreated runoff, Stine said.

In recent years, the lake has been a battleground for environmentalists, who have wanted to maintain the so-called riparian buffer, and homeowners, who said it had grown too high and eclipsed their lake view. A compromise was reached by cutting back and reducing the buffer's height.

Residents can help with the runoff problem by creating native-plant rain gardens rather than just lawns, and by putting rain barrels under drain spouts, Stine said.

At a public meeting Monday night to discuss issues with the lake, Andrew Kricun, executive director of the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, also talked about long-term solutions such as planting strategically placed rain gardens, creating a storm-water-control system, controlling erosion, and maintaining an adequate buffer.

"We are moving ahead very quickly to address the short-term problem," Nash said at the meeting, "and we are going to address the long-term problem."

Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893 or, or follow on Twitter @ritagiordano.

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