Algae Bloom...

It was late in June of 2012.  I had grown a beard/mustache during the winter, and when I decided to use my snorkel to see how the water looked after the winter, the water leaked past my mask, so I ceased snorkeling (and have never done it since)!  So I had no idea to what extent the algae deposits had changed since the previous year.  I was just “messing about with my boat” by my dock and looked across toward the west side of the pond.  Streaming slowly by the rocks off my shoreline was a greenish-brown colored liquid in the water.  I wasn’t concerned at first, because after any heavy rain, water ran down the brook on my property from a beaver pond above the east side of the Georges Pond Road and that water, colored from beaver activity, would usually flow past our camp, dissipate quickly and no longer be noticed. 

But this colored water was different.  I soon noticed that it spread across the pond as far as I could see.  Coincidently a DEP employee, Mark Whiting, canoed past my dock, and asked me how long I had been spending time at Georges Pond, and had I ever seen such a discoloration of the water.  I told him that my family and myself had been at this camp since 1945, and that I had never seen such a discoloration!  It subsequently spread over the whole pond, and on July 3rd when my son from Vermont came along the road and could first see the pond, he told me that “it looked like a big bowl of Gatorade!”

The “discoloration” was, of course the beginning of the first major algae bloom of its kind ever seen on the pond.  Our GPA board member, and former president Brian Friedmann, a retired DEP environmental analyst from Massachusetts, identified the blue-green organism as an Anabaena species. Mark Whiting further identified it as Anabaena planctonica, a potentially very harmful species of algae to have in any body of water.   When I sit down to “Ponder” again I’ll share more of what the GPA has been doing to reduce the impact of this specie and others like it on the quality of Georges Pond water.

But I do want to leave you with something to think about as to the problem we face.  The cause of this increase in algae is primarily due to the amount of phosphorous compounds that are dissolved in the water.  The DEP guidelines state that the concentration of phosphorous should not exceed 15ppb (that’s 15 parts per billion).  It has taken decades for the concentration to reach above 15ppb in Georges Pond Water.  Data available to us shows that the concentration has risen rapidly during the past decade, “skyrocketing” in 2011 and 2012 to 20ppb.  What has caused this rise, and why has it not declined?  More about that later.

 

The Early Days on Georges Pond...

July 4, 1941 – I have a picture taken that day of my Dad and me at age 4 as we were swimming off Varnum’s Beach (now called Bunker’s Beach) on Georges Pond. In 1945 we built our camp on the pond and called it “Camp Hideaway.” It was the 26th camp that had been built along the shoreline of the pond. At that time people just built “where and what they wanted”, which would help to explain why our porch is only 10 feet from the water!! Dad installed a hand pump attached to a pipe which was put in the pond, and that was our water supply until 1972! After 1945, we got our drinking water from the spring in Spring Cove, but we used pond water for everything else. Except for 1965, I’ve spent time every summer on the pond since then, and it is the most special place on earth to me!

As one can imagine, there was very little concern whatsoever about water quality at that time. In 1948, I occasionally noticed a green cotton-candy like growth low in the pond while fishing. My grandfather, “Mike” Estey told me it was “pickerel eggs.”  Decades later I learned it was a form of algae, called metaphyton; …I didn’t realize that “meta” was just one form of algae which could compromise the pond. Then came the summer of 2012! Next time in “Just Pondering" I’ll tell you how that summer has affected all of us on the pond since then.