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SCHROON — A new recycling boat decontamination station in Severance, a hamlet in Schroon, has already proven its worth and more, saving Schroon Lake from an infestation of invasive zebra mussels this summer.

The approximately $24,000 machine shoots 140-degree high-pressure water onto boats, not only removing any visible vegetation and dirt but killing off the larvae of invasives like Asian clams and zebra mussels. The wash is free.

The Severance station, installed at the end of last summer and bought by the town of Schroon, the Schroon Lake Association and the Paradox Lake Association, is halfway between boat launches on Schroon and Paradox lakes off Exit 28 on the Northway.

While both lakes are still battling milfoil (particularly tricky because if the plant gets broken up, it creates new plants), so far the boat steward and decontamination stations are keeping other things out.

Mark Granger, president of the Schroon Lake Association, said the wash station saved their lake from a possible $500,000 (or more) invasive species removal effort when a boat steward washed a boat coming from Saratoga Lake that was filled with zebra mussels. Zebra mussels are particularly nasty invasives because they clog water intake pipes, choke out other native mussels and filter out good kinds of algae.

Molly Wisser, a college student and resident of Schroon Lake, has spent the summer staffing the boat decontamination station, which has washed more than 120 boats so far. She said most people are cooperative when it comes to having their boats washed.

“No one has argued with us,” Granger said. “Everybody understands if this lake gets full of bad stuff, it’s over.”

The Severance station is one of about 50 in the Adirondack Park, said Justice Parker, the Schroon Lake regional supervisor at the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College. Schroon Lake also has a decontamination station in Horicon, which has operated for the past four years. Lake George has seven inspection stations.

When a boat arrives at one of the stations, a steward will ask the driver some survey questions, including whether the boat has been in a water body in the last two weeks and what water bodies it has visited. Parker said if a boat is out of the water for two weeks, most invasive species will have died.

Boats that have only recreated in Schroon and Paradox lakes do not need a wash, nor do ones that have already been decontaminated at other stations.

The Severance station is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day during the summer. After Labor Day, it will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, eight hours a day, likely through Columbus Day. Granger says it costs about $18,000 a year to operate, and most of the costs are covered by the two lake associations. The Cloudsplitter Foundation provided $10,000 in financial assistance in a grant awarded this summer to help, too.

The town houses the station during the winter months before May rolls around and Granger said a kind of “Amish barn raising” party takes place. About 20 people come together to put up the temporary structure that houses the decontamination machine.

Wisser, who is one of a couple of dozen boat stewards in the area, said it’s been cool for her to play a part in protecting Schroon Lake, even if it’s a small part.

“This is my home for 15 years or so, so it wouldn’t be home without the lake,” she added.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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