The Last Newsletter for the Alum Grant!
Newsletter #16 – June 2020
A few quick news items:
Please do not feed the swans.
We no longer have just one swan family. There are many swans on the lake and we are witnessing their daily battles for territory. There is plenty of food (weeds) for the swans in the lake. Feeding the swans, no matter how beautiful they are, harms the birds, encourages increasing numbers of swans and causes algal growth in the water. LAA has purchased four new signs and you will see them going up at the Boat Ramp, Birches Dam, AALSIA beach and near Oak Circle.
Invasive weed monitoring:
Our weed watcher volunteers have been out and are marking the location of invasive plants (milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed mostly) in preparation for the June weed treatment. The weed markers are typically a short piece of foam noodle floating on the surface, tied to a weight that is holding it in place. We have seen boaters removing the weed markers! Please spread the word and ask people not to disturb them. We have a large group of weed watcher volunteers but need a few more to adequately cover each area of the lake. If you would like to join in this fun effort please contact us through the website at www.lakeattitash.org
Boat Ramp Monitoring:
Memorial Day marked the beginning of our boat ramp monitoring. LAA does not have enough volunteers to help boaters check their boats for invasive weeds as they enter and leave our lake. Dennis Welcome coordinates this program. He will show you what needs to be done and organize the schedule. If you can give us even 2 hours a month, it would be very helpful. Bring your own lawn chair!
Volunteers are always needed and welcomed
We welcome your interest and expertise as we keep the work of LAA moving forward. There are always more plans and goals than we can accomplish. If you are interested in getting more involved with this all-volunteer group, please contact us through the website at www.lakeattitash.org
The alum grant:
We are coming to the end of the grant that brought us the alum treatment. Lake Attitash had experienced blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms periodically and these blooms are a health threat to people and animals. The alum treatment is designed to reduce the amount of nutrients (mostly phosphorus) that feed the algae, thereby preventing hazardous algal blooms. The nutrients have over the decades accumulated in the sediment. The alum treatment seals the nutrients into the sediment and prevents them from getting into the water column.
The grant was awarded in 2017. Amesbury, Merrimac and the Lake Association and its members made it happen. Once the matching funds were secured (no easy task!), Rob Desmarais, DPW Director for the City of Amesbury took the lead and completed the application and has administered the grant throughout. This has involved a great deal of work which is not apparent to most of us.
Hats off to Rob Desmarais for his expertise and dedication to the successful completion of this grant and the health of Lake Attitash!
The first alum treatment for areas of the lake that are at least 11’ deep was completed in the spring of 2019. The second alum treatment for our deepest section is scheduled for June 2020.
In addition to raising funds to contribute to the required financial match, the LAA committed to creating 16 newsletters that would ensure that lake residents understand how to protect the lake from excess nutrients that flow in with unfiltered storm water. We have learned how our behavior impacts our lake. We have learned what harms our lake and how to protect our lake. These newsletters and other important information for residents in the watershed area posted on our website at www.lakeattitash.org
Four top 4 parting shots!
Go Natural! Let’s get serious about fertilizer!
Fertilizer use in the watershed is serious business! If you want to continue to see cleaner water in Lake Attitash, remember that Phosphorus is public enemy #1. There is a law in Massachusetts restricting the use of fertilizers containing Phosphorus on all non-agricultural turf or lawns in order to protect our waterways. (“An Act Relative to the Regulation of Plant Nutrients” 330 CMR 31.00)
All fertilizer labels have three bold numbers. These three numbers represent the primary nutrients (nitrogen (N) – phosphorus (P) – potassium (K)).
Here are some of the restrictions in the new law:
- Fertilizer containing Phosphorus can only be applied when a soil test has indicated that it is necessary OR when a new lawn is being established, patched or renovated
- No fertilizer of any sort can be applied between December 1 and March 1 to frozen or snow covered soil, to saturated soil, or soils that frequently flood, or to soil within 20’ of a water supply well or within 100’ of surface water that is used for public drinking water supply. Lake Attitash provides back up drinking water supply for the City of Amesbury.
- Don’t over fertilize your lawn – more is not necessarily better
- Any plant nutrient / fertilizer applied shall not exceed UMass guidelines for plant nutrient application rates to turf. Link to guidelines. UMass Nutrient Guidelines
What can we do?
- Go natural! Leave or create a buffer garden, a strip of natural or unfertilized vegetation along your shoreline. This prevents erosion and helps use up any excess nutrients before they enter the lake. Visit Lakeattitash.org for helpful information about buffer gardens.
- Use a NO PHOSPHORUS FERTILIZER.
If you do not use a no-phosphorus fertilizer the law requires you to get your soil tested and feed it only when necessary and according to the test results. Soil tests for nutrient analysis shall be obtained from the UMass Extension Soil Testing Lab or a laboratory using methods and procedures recommended by UMass. Soil tests are valid for three years. Visit the following website for more information: UMass Extension Soil Tests
Unfortunately, due to COVID 19, the UMass Lab is currently closed. If you must fertilize, use a NO PHOSPHORUS fertilizer and get your soil tested when the lab reopens.
- Never apply fertilizer before heavy rainfall as it will be absorbed by the storm water and washed into the lake
- Minimize fertilizer use on slopes
- Don’t overwater your lawn. Consider using a timer or put out an empty tuna can – when it’s full you can stop watering.
Details about this law are available at: Mass Nutrient Regulations and Fact Sheet
2. Go Native – Buffer Plantings:
The Garden Centers are doing a booming business! During this Covid 19 pandemic we are spending more time at home and have fewer outside distractions. Now that the warmer weather has finally arrived we are turning to gardening as a wonderful way to spend our time.
You all know about buffer gardens from previous newsletters. You can ‘Go Native’ by not mowing the last few feet next to the shoreline, and let nature take over or you can plant native plants that do not require fertilizing and/or much watering. Either way, you provide a protective barrier between your yard and the lake that will absorb excess nutrients and pollutants and protect your shoreline from erosion.
Additionally, native plantings between the shoreline and your yard can help dissuade geese from entering and leaving waste on your lawn.
Go to Lakeattitash.org for more information on buffer gardens. In addition, click on the following link to find an excellent document from Vermont that includes a variety of designs and planting plans. Vermont Buffer Garden Designs and Planting Plans
Some very local ideas for native plants that will love the lake and thrive here:
Low Bush Blueberries – Lake Attitash is named after the wild blueberries that once surrounded this lake.
Blue Flag Iris…is native to New England, loves damp soil near the lake, and holds the soil well. During high water level events iris roots will protect your shoreline.
Solitude Lake Management Company recommends the following plants for establishing a buffer planting on your shoreline: blueberry, Sweet Pepperbush, Arrowwood, Winterberry, Irises, and Swamp Milkweed. Good for water quality and good for wildlife.
3. Go Pervious. Putting in a new patio, walkway, parking area of driveway?
When you have the opportunity always put down pervious surfaces. To protect the lake and to protect your property from flooding problems, use porous surfaces instead of tarmac. We need storm water to be absorbed into and filtered by the soil. We want to prevent storm water from running off unfiltered into the lake.
4. Go Slow’ in shallow water
Lake Attitash is primarily a shallow water body. The alum treatment was applied only to the sediment in areas of the lake that are deeper than 11’ because in shallow water the alum barrier would be disturbed by boats, people and high winds. This means that there is no alum barrier blocking the nutrients in the sediment from entering the water column in the shallow areas. So……when out in your boat be particularly careful to ‘Go Slow” in shallow waters as that disturbs the sediment and brings nutrients up into the water column, providing food for the algae.
And to end with a little humor… enjoy the lake anyway you can.
Congratulations to all of us who helped make the alum grant a reality!
Our thanks to the MADEP for their wisdom in awarding the grant to Amesbury for Lake Attitash.
Our thanks to the U.S EPA for making these grants possible.
This project has been partially funded with Federal Funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection under an s. 319 competitive grant.
Dear Friends and Smart Protectors of Lake Attitash
The clear water we now enjoy in Lake Attitash is the result of a major grant award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection. This grant’s purpose is to mitigate the significant health hazards of blue-green algae or cyanobacteria blooms that used to plague our lake.
In March 2019 our first alum treatment was completed. We will be seeing a second treatment this spring. The excess nutrients that have accumulated over the decades in the sediment of our lake feed the cyanobacteria. The alum treatment settles as a ‘blanket’ on the sediment, sealing in the nutrients so they do not enter the water column and feed the cyanobacteria. The deepest layers of sediment are in the deepest areas of the lake and contain the highest levels of excess nutrients. This supplemental alum treatment will provide an additional layer of protection in the deepest section of the lake.
This one day treatment is expected to take place in May 2020.
What can residents who live in Lake Attitash Watershed do to prolong the benefits of this grant? Our responsibility is to limit the flow of nutrients and pollutants from entering our lake.
This is our watershed:
What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area that drains into a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland or even the ocean. Watersheds provide our drinking water, habitat for wildlife and the streams and lakes that we use for fishing, boating and swimming.
Why is it so important to manage storm water within our watershed?
Large impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways and parking areas prevent rain from being absorbed into the earth. As this water passes over these impervious surfaces it picks up sediment loaded with nutrients from fertilizer; bacteria from animal poop; and pathogens and chemical pollutants on the way to the storm drain. Any water that enters a storm drain, or flows from your property to a nearby stream or to the lake is “untreated,” which means that the polluted sediment is not filtered out by the earth or allowed to settle out like it might if it were directed into a raingarden or retention basin. There are many local storm drains that empty untreated runoff directly into Lake Attitash.
What can we do to reduce water use, and help rain water seep into the ground rather than run off into a storm drain or directly into the lake? 4 great ideas!
- Rain Barrels
Rain barrels collect rainwater from your roof gutters. This water can be used for gardening. A rain barrel can save an average of 1300 gallons of water during peak summer months.
Amesbury no longer has a rain barrel program but a quick search on the internet will give you many good local options. They are affordable and now come in many different models to fit your aesthetic needs.
- Rain Gardens
A rain garden is simply a shallow depression in your yard that is planted with native wetland plants, wildflowers, shrubs or grasses. Correctly placed across an area where storm water flows it absorbs the runoff, takes up the nutrients and filters the water. Check out the Lake Attitash Association website for information and contact the LAA for assistance.
- Buffer Gardens
Buffer gardens are planted on the water’s edge and serve as a living filter because they capture many of the pollutants that flow through them. Their root systems hold the soil in place, prevent erosion and provide a beautiful addition to your view.
- Porous Surfaces
When planning or renovating a patio, walkway or driveway, use porous materials like pervious pavers, gravel, sand, or stones when you can. Avoid black top if possible.
If we reduce the amount of unfiltered water running off into Lake Attitash using these 4 methods we will be protecting our lake.
One more thing…..a reminder about dog poop!
The LAA has been getting many complaints about unleashed dogs at the State boat ramp area! It is tempting to just let your dog out without a leash to do its business in this open grassy area but it is illegal, creates a health risk, adds harmful bacteria and nutrients to our lake that can promote algal blooms and is very inconsiderate.
Common courtesy calls for us all to protect walkers by cleaning up after our dogs. It is more than mere courtesy, it is a matter of public health and environmental protection. According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services pet waste can cause nasty infections in humans, such as Giardiasis (which can cause diarrhea, cramping, fatigue, and weight loss) and Toxocariasis (which can cause vision loss, rash, fever, or cough, and is a particular threat to children exposed to parasite eggs in sand and soil).
And it’s not just the droppings that are a problem. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection warns that dog waste left on lawns, roads, parking lots, beaches, and other surfaces is washed into streams, lakes and ultimately the sea. The solution? Always pick up your dog’s waste and properly dispose of it by flushing it, burying it, or trashing it.
Most department and pet stores sell pet waste bag dispensers and refills at a low cost. Please consider using one of these which can conveniently clip right onto your pet’s leash and provide you with a bag to clean up pet waste wherever you are!
This project has been partially funded with Federal Funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection under an s. 319 competitive grant.
In the spring of last year alum was applied around the lake at depths of 11.5’ or more. At depths less than this, it was determined that boat traffic would disturb the sediment and disrupt the effect of the treatment. Approximately 195 acres of this 365 acre lake was treated. Previous testing showed that the primary source of the nutrients that feed the cyanobacteria is in the sediment. Phosphorus has accumulated there for decades. Research also showed that the deepest levels of sediment are in the deepest parts of the lake. Fortunately enough funds were provided for in the Dept. of Environmental Protection grant to allow for an additional treatment to be provided this spring in the deeper acreage of the lake that wasn’t treated originally. Of course it still needs everyone to be good lake neighbors and keep phosphorus out of the lake. Please click on the “Protect Your Lake” button on the home page to see what you can do. Thank you.
During the past year the water in Lake Attitash was amazingly clear and free from invasive weeds. It was as good as folks have seen in many years. The good news is that a permit has been issued to once again manage those nasty invasive weeds. This is primarily targeted to manage Curly Pond Weed and two forms of Milfoil. Water Chestnuts are also kept under control by volunteers hand pulling them in Back River when ever they are found. The Lake Association has a hearty group of weed watchers who scour the lake for any suspect plants and report their findings so action can be taken. Please click on the “Weed Watchers” button on the home page to see more, and give them a big thanks when you see them out on the lake.
The Lake Attitash Association has access to a series of old articles and pictures about Lake Attitash. From time to time these will be sent out to our email list for folks on, around or interested in the lake to enjoy. It’s nice to be able to actually see some of the history of the lake and maybe even read about or see old friends and family members. We hope you will enjoy them all.
In the spring of 2019, the treatment of Lake Attitash with Alum to keep the major Cyanobacteria / Blue Green Algae blooms at bay was completed. It was a great summer with no harmful algal blooms The lake water was clearer than it has been in many years. A big thank you to the Town of Merrimac, City of Amesbury, the Mass Department of Environmental Protection and those many residents and friends who donated funds to make this happen. It’s now time to make sure that we keep the nutrient levels in the lake down. Your help is needed to follow the good practices that can be found in the “Protect Your Lake” in this LAA website. Everything you do, no matter how big or small has an impact on the lake. Thank you.
Saturday, September 1st
Grand Illumination Boat Parade
Meet at State Board Ramp in Merrimac at 6:30
Rain Date: Sunday, September 2nd
Dress your boat and house with lights and decorations… or come as you are!!!
Sponsored by the Lake Attitash Association
The Lake Attitash Association will be holding its 2019 Annual Meeting on Thursday, August 15th from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Merrimac Public Library. The Library is located at 34 West Main Street (Rt.110) in Merrimac, MA.Members and non-members are welcome. The meeting will include social time, presentations and discussion.
The agenda includes:
- The $600,000 Alum Treatment Grant – What’s Next
- Keeping It Clean – Weed Management
Excellent new T-shirts, Pennants, Fleeces & Hats will be available for you to purchase. You can also renew your membership which helps the association carry out its activities. Cash, checks and credit cards accepted and appreciated.There will be an opportunity to talk to other people from around the lake who are also interested in maintaining Lake Attitash as a valuable resource and place for enjoyment by all.
Lake Attitash is blessed with many mature and beautiful trees around its shores.
Have you ever wondered why the Conservation Commissions works so hard to protect trees and other vegetation near our lake?
Why do we need to protect them? Why should we plant more trees?
Trees, shrubs and plants play an incredible role in reducing storm water and removing or filtering nutrients and pollutants that would otherwise end up in our lake.
- Trees provide shade
- Trees reduce air pollution
- Their roots hold the soil preventing soil erosion
- Trees act like enormous sponges. They absorb large amounts of storm water before it can run off into the lake
- And, best of all, they absorb excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and contaminants (metals, pesticides, solvents, oils) from the soil before they reach the water.
(Remember, phosphorus is public enemy #1 for Lake Attitash. Excess nutrients feed algae and create the hazardous algae blooms our alum treatment is designed to suppress.)
According to an article published by Penn State Extension in August of 2015, a “single mature oak tree can consume over 40,000 gallons of water in a year.”
And, from the same Penn State article, “a mature evergreen can intercept more than 4,000 gallons per year. “
Please protect and plant trees!
This project has been partially funded with Federal Funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection under an s. 319 competitive grant.