LAKE GEORGE — A nearly 1-1/2 year study of a water quality project in the village shows it’s working, and working better than expected, although environmental groups have found new challenges to address.
The West Brook Conservation Initiative includes a parcel off of West Brook Road where the former Gaslight Village used to be. With the Route 9 corridor draining onto the property, into West Brook and ultimately into Lake George, local officials identified it as an important avenue for protecting water quality.
About a decade ago, Warren County, the village of Lake George, The Fund for Lake George, the Lake George Land Conservancy and the Lake George Association came together to buy the land and put in basins to catch stormwater runoff and plants to gobble up excess nutrients.
The goal was to keep sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen, all of which can impair a waterbody and feed algal blooms, from getting into the lake. Lake George is already on a list of impaired water bodies for too much sediment.
Randy Rath, project manager with the Lake George Association, said from June 2017 to September 2018 water samples were collected to see if the management practices were working. The time frame included six major storm events, beneficial for showing how the site would handle heavy runoff.
The goal had been to remove 50 percent of phosphorous and 90 percent of suspended solids, but the results of the study show the wetland is working better than that.
The average removal of phosphorous, Rath said, was 85 percent and the average removal of suspended solids was 92 percent.
Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said the site particularly worked well during storms and snow melts.
“I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was, so we were very pleased with that,” Navitsky said.
In addition to monitoring the nutrients and sediment, Navitsky said, he tested for other things, too, and found high levels of calcium and road salt are getting into Lake George. Navitsky said the site is not designed, nor is it possible, to filter for those.
While he’s not concerned about the human health implications of high levels of calcium, he said it could be a concern in regard to invasive species. Zebra mussels need calcium to grow their shells, and they could proliferate in that hot spot with the extra dose.
Navitsky said he’s using the study results to ask the state Department of Transportation to begin a road sweeping program, which could remove some calcium before it gets into the water. The results also fuel the current push to reduce road salt.
Jamie Brown, executive director of the Lake George Land Conservancy, said it was good to see the project is helping to improve water quality overall.
“The whole project was a great way for all the different organizations to work together to protect the lake,” he said.