Mohegan Lake was scheduled April 23 to be the recipient of a state funded pilot project to treat a long-standing nuisance of blue green algae that has forced the 103-acre natural waterway to shut down at times to swimmers and lake enthusiasts in the past.
The two-day treatment of Alum (aluminum sulfate), which members of the Mohegan Lake Improvement District feel could be a “game-changer” in improving the water quality during the summer season, was planned to take place last week but was postponed after a pontoon barge filled with a few hundred gallons of alum tipped over in the lake on April 16 after pre-treatment water testing was done.
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials were on hand when the mishap occurred and determined there were no environmental problems caused by the spill from contractor Princeton Hydro LLC.
Ken Belfer, president of the Mohegan Lake Improvement District, said during a press conference last week with State Senator Peter Harckham, Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert and Councilman Vishnu Patel he was grateful the lake was chosen for the project, which a few years ago was estimated to cost about $150,000 but is being done this year at no cost.
He said Mohegan Lake, which has five active beach associations, was treated with Alum in 2002 and the water quality that summer “was the best we had in decades.” The pilot project includes two years of study of the impacts of all aspects of the lake ecology.
“We see this pilot project as just the beginning,” Belfer said. “Our ongoing efforts include water quality monitoring, aeration of the lake, weed harvesting and removal of invasive aquatic species.”
Harckham thanked Governor Andrew Cuomo for accepting Mohegan Lake for the pilot project.
“This is a big, big deal,” he said. “If successful, this pilot can be reciprocated in other lakes in the district.”
Gilbert addressed recent criticism from his Republican candidate Matt Slater that his administration has been lax in dealing with problems in the lake.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Gilbert remarked. “Now with this pilot project we’re hoping it will be more fantastic. I hope we have a wonderful season this year.”
However, last week Slater took credit for the pilot program, maintaining it was undertaken in February 2018 following advocacy by Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and former Senator Terrence Murphy that was coordinated by himself as Murphy’s chief of staff.
“It’s great to see the work I engaged in during my time in the State Senate is coming to fruition,” Slater said. “Thank you to the Mohegan Lake Improvement District for keeping up the fight to get the alum treatments approved.”
Along with prior letters supporting the application of copper sulfate, alum and altering rigid soil testing requirements to suit local needs at Lake Mohegan, Slater said he delivered an $80,000 grant to purchase a new weed harvester for the Mohegan Lake Improvement District. He also helped secure four summits supporting the state’s comprehensive effort to protect vulnerable lakes and waterbodies in Upstate New York from harmful algal blooms., and helped author and pass the first comprehensive harmful algal bloom mitigation program in the nation through the State Senate, based on the state’s invasive species program.