Officials hope for Spring Lake recovery

Officials hope for Spring Lake recovery
On Oct. 3 the waters of Spring Lake were still brown but dead fish weren’t littering the lake. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Spring Lake may still have some brown water for now, but newly appointed Director of Development Services Eran Wasserman is hopeful that continuing to aerate the lake will result in clean, clear water soon.

Wasserman said that he is observing the lake visually every day and providing updates to city commissioners. What he’s looking for in these observations is water clarity, fish kills, if there’s any odor and how strong the order is, if present.

Also, he is working with representatives from Aquatic Systems to determine what the best way forward is to monitor the water quality in Spring Lake. During a September meeting, commissioners instructed him to work with City Engineer Lynn Burnett and Aquatic Systems representatives to develop a comprehensive recovery plan for the lake.

“What we see is a tremendous improvement,” Wasserman said. “There are no more fish kills as of Tuesday (Sept. 24), I can say for sure.”

The fish kill that took place over the weekend of Sept. 20-22 Wasserman said was the worst that residents could have expected to happen. Now that it’s over and there are a few fish jumping in the lake, he said the focus is on getting the water clear.

Since it’s been almost two weeks since a fish kill was observed in the lake, Wasserman said he would be recommending to city commissioners to go from running the newly installed aeration system overnight to running it 24 hours a day to speed up the oxygenation process for the toxic water lurking on the bottom of the lake. After speaking with a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, he said he doesn’t believe there was anything more that could’ve been done to prevent the fish kill in September and that they’re on the best course of action to help clean up the lake. Though he did add that he’s open to considering any additional ideas to help clear the lake water, if it’s a method that would be approved by FDEP and if it can logistically be applied to Spring Lake.

“We are monitoring this, we do see improvement, but it’s unlikely to see a rapid improvement in water quality due to the fact that we are dealing with the lake and organic matter that was accumulated over there for the past 50 years or so,” he said. “So, this is where we are right now. So, all in all, we see a positive improvement and we are going to monitor this with our specialists that eventually will come up and will figure out whether there is an improvement and whether the aeration system works.” He added that among experts the aeration system is the best way to deal with the toxicity levels in Spring Lake. A contract for water testing with Aquatic Systems is expected to be presented to commissioners at a future meeting.

In the meantime, Wasserman did address two concerns from residents, one concerning the WaStop valve that prevents tidal waters from traveling from Grand Canal to Spring Lake via an outflow pipe and the second regarding the infiltration trenches surrounding the lake.

Wasserman said that the WaStop valve is still in place, but that Spring Lake receives tidal waters through two other smaller pipes coming into the lake. He said that the seawall where the WaStop valve is located is compromised, causing a safety hazard with accessing the valve. He said that he doesn’t know how many gallons of water come and go with the tides in the lake.

“This lake at this time is not completely sealed from the Bay,” he said.

To address resident concerns that the stormwater infiltration trenches around the lake are harming the lake water, Wasserman said it’s untrue.

The infiltration trenches were designed to capture stormwater runoff from the homes surrounding the lake. During a Sept. 24 commission meeting, one resident said that the trenches were having the opposite effect, filling with water and pushing stormwater and sediment into the lake.

Wasserman said that the concerns were unfounded and that he provided a letter to city officials stating that the type of infiltration trenches installed capture the pollutants that might otherwise find their way into the lake.

Another update on the condition of Spring Lake is expected at the Oct. 8 commission meeting, after press time for The Sun.

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