Newton Lake algae treatment on hold

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: July 17, 2013

Camden County officials have decided to hold off on plans to treat Newton Lake with a pesticide intended to control algae growth.

The backup treatment may not be necessary, Freeholder Jeffrey Nash said Monday.

"We'll monitor and make a decision in two weeks," Nash said.

Last month, Princeton Hydro, a Ringoes, N.J.-based firm hired by the county, raked up and removed a huge volume of algae mats that had been choking the lake and depleting its oxygen. Treating the lake, which touches parts of Collingswood, Haddon Township, and Oaklyn, with the algicide Captain was going to be the next step.

If county officials decide to go ahead with treatment, they already have secured a permit from the state to use the pesticide, according to county parks department director Frank Moran.

An overabundance of the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen carried into the lake by storm-water runoff has been cited as a prime cause of the out-of-control algae and aquatic plant bloom.

Opinion was divided on what should be done about the lake, which was at the center of an earlier dispute between environmentalists and other residents over the height of the so-called riparian buffer. As a compromise, the county had the buffer trimmed back.

At a hearing last month, Princeton Hydro president Stephen Souza said the algicide would not harm the lake's fish if it were used properly.

Literature by the copper-containing product's manufacturer, SePRO Corp., says that the pesticide can be toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, and that treating aquatic weeds and algae can result in oxygen loss, causing fish and invertebrates to suffocate. It goes on to explain how to use the product to minimize the hazard.

Despite assurances, some residents were not persuaded that the product could be used safely.

Beekeeper and Oaklyn resident Robert Bennett had a petition he said had attracted about 270 signatures opposing the chemical treatment.

"I'm looking out for my bees and the wild bees," said Bennett, who also opposes the county's mosquito-spraying program as too widespread.

The county's solution to the algae problem does not address its root: runoff and the substances it carries into the lake, Bennett said.

Others, such as Robert Gauld, whose home is on the lake, think the county should do the treatment as long as it does not harm fish and wildlife.

Much of the algae has been removed and the lake looks better, Gauld said, but "there's still an algae problem. . . . They didn't get rid of all of it."

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


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