Steps toward a healthier lake
There is little doubt about what needs to be done to restore the health of Putnam Valley’s Lake Oscawana, a scenic glacial lake so saturated with phosphorous that in February the state Department of Environmental Conservation declared it an “impaired water body,” meaning remediation is required.
“For 29 years we have had an annual study,” Stephen Axinn, president of the Lake Oscawana Civic Association, told the Editorial Board. “It has been studied more than almost any lake in the Northeast.”
The problem, as study after study has shown, is that phosphorous, an ingredient in lawn fertilizer as well as animal and human waste, washes into the lake with runoff from each rainfall. It promotes the growth of oxygen-depleting algae, which can choke the life – fish and all – out of a lake, leaving a foul-smelling, pea soup-like ecological dead zone in its place. Lake Oscawana is not alone, the phosphorous crisis is affecting bodies of water throughout the Lower Hudson Valley and beyond. The Ramapo River in New Jersey had been deemed “impaired” by high amounts of phosphorous.
But Lake Oscawana can serve as a good model of how to restore an impaired lake if all the interested parties – the lake community, the town, the county and the state – work together to reduce the amount of phosphorous already in the lake and prevent more from streaming in.