Algae Blooms in Northwood Lake
This past weekend I read an article in one of my favorite local news blogs that covers the town of Northwood among several others. Northwood Lake is a place where my family has owned a summer home since 1974 and the town beach has been closed due to a reading of high levels of bacteria caused by algae blooms. Here is a quote from “The Forum” www.forumhome.org,
“Warnings are issued when a large bloom of possible toxin-producing cyanobacteria is identified in a lake. The warning will remain in effect until subsequent samples of algae show that levels of cyanobacteria have diminished. Lake users should avoid contact with the water in areas with blue-green globs, flecks, or clouds. This alert is not based on a toxin evaluation and is intended as a precautionary measure for short term exposure. If you notice anything resembling cyanobacteria, please refrain from wading, swimming, or drinking the water and keep all pets out of the water.
Beach advisories for either fecal bacteria or cyanobacteria have been issued for:
- Lucas Pond Town Beach, Northwood
- Northwood Town Beach, Northwood
- Veasey Park Beach on Pleasant Lake, Deerfield (This advisory was removed on Thursday, August 26.)
An advisory has been issued due to elevated levels of bacteria at the beach. Additional samples will be collected. Once the bacteria levels fall below the state standard of 88 counts/100mL of water, the advisory will be removed.”
Just last week my family and I had spent the weekend on our beloved Northwood Lake and I had noticed several of the algae blooms myself. Of course it was my intention to write about it here and I would personally expose the culprit as being the over application of chemical and water soluble synthetic fertilizers.
As coincidence would have it our good friend Paul Tukey at Safelawns also posted a link to a story about a lake in Ohio that is literally dead as of this summer as a result of algae blooms. You can find a link to that story and plenty of other incredible information at www.safelawns.org/blog.
I knew right away that I had to write a letter to the Nortwood Lake Watershed Association to offer my assistance in terms of educating homeowners as to what the dangers of applying water soluble fertilizer to lawns can be. In this particular case the issue is literally in my own front yard and it strikes a very VERY deep chord with me. This is one of those occasions where I look at the way I spent my time over the years promoting lawn care by chemical means. When I got my first job at Barefoot Grass Lawn Service in 1993 I had already been spending summer weeks on Northwood Lake for twenty years. Now, almost twenty years later to think that I may have had even a small hand in increasing the general public to desire a thick chemical lawn at any cost whatsoever is literally sickening to me. I know I need to take action. In this case I know I can make a difference.
A funny thing happened as I was writing this essay too. Sometimes in an effort to find photo’s quickly and efficiently I look on google images or on photobucket. I needed a nice picture of Northwood Lake to ad an effect to my blog entry. What I found literally makes the argument about as easy as can be, a picture is worth a thousand words. Almost every single picture that I came across had people smiling with the back drop of well kept year round and seasonal cottages. In front of every single one? You guessed it, a thick green lawn leading down to the waterfront. In recent years, many of the older cottages have been rebuilt or even torn down so that their owners could build bigger and better ones. What they don’t know is that every time they fertilize their lawns they are contributing to the death of their lake.
Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to the Northwood Lake Watershed Association. I hope to hear from them soon.
Dear Members of The Northwood Lake Watershed Association,
I have been meaning to reach out to you for what seems like many years now but time always passes quickly and it’s taken this long for me to make contact.
My name is Thomas Kelly and my family and I are home owners on Northwood Lake. Our home is on Fiore Road and we have been there since 1974 when my Great Aunts purchased a cottage from Mr. Fiore. I first began spending time on the lake when I was three years old and it holds a very very special place in my collective memory and I very much enjoy spending time there with my children and family now.
On Saturday morning, August 21st, my three year old and I took an early morning canoe ride along the island end of the lake. We enjoy paddling through the coves before all the water skiers make their appearance and when the lake is crystal clear and as calm as it can be. This weekend, however, I was shocked at the number of “algae blooms” through our travels. There was one large one in front of our home but many very large and noticeable blooms were present especially in the cove by the horse farm and on the far end near Pine Point. I was not surprised to read about the beach closure and elevated levels of bacteria soon after our stay.
I am well versed in this particular issue because I make my career out of trying to convince home owners and business’ to discontinue the use of pesticides and more importantly chemical fertilizers in their effort to create a nice lawn. I’ve spent the last 18 years in the professional lawn care industry and have recently launched a business and product line based on “chemical free lawn care.” I understand the damage that can be done to bodies of water from the over application of chemical fertilizers that contain large amounts of water soluble nitrogen and phosphorus. I spend almost every day having this conversation with people looking to protect our environment from chemical run off.
Over the last ten or so years I have seen many new homes, “tear downs” and “rehabs” happen all along the shores of our lake. With almost every new project comes a brand new lush, green chemically treated lawn. I am certain that our lake has reached it’s breaking point in terms of accepting a nutrient load when it comes to run off from chemical fertilizers.
It is my professional opinion that the nitrogen and phosphorus that is being applied to these lawns is immediately leaching into our lake and is leading to what could be a catastrophic situation for all of us who have enjoyed the peacefulness and serenity of the lake over the years.
I would suggest to you that almost one hundred percent of the offenders in terms of lawn care do not know that they are contributing to what could potentially be the death of their lake. If they had any idea how much harm they were doing I would sincerely believe that they would stop. The key in this situation is education. I am writing to you to offer my help in attempting to educate the general public about the dangers of algae blooms and the over use of chemical fertilizers. Please understand that I am not contacting you with a sales pitch but with a truly passionate concern about what I see happening.
I am including a link below to an article published today about “Grand Lake St. Marys” in Ohio and Indiana. Grand Lake St. Marys is essentially “Dead” as of this summer and it is due to the algae blooms that have taken over.
We must act swiftly in order to prevent a similar fate to Northwood Lake and after what I saw this past weekend we must organize to do so NOW.
If you would like to discuss what I think needs to be done please feel free to contact me by email or by phone.
I look forward to your response.
President, Founder and CEO
Fire Belly Organic Lawn Care
188 Elm Street
Milford, NH 03055
888 828 7047
“The environmental and health challenges we face no longer give us the luxury to tinker with risk reduction systems that are inherently dependent on outdated and unreasonable chemical-intensive approaches.”
Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides