Top Four Ways You Can Protect Your Lake

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


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

 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

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 for helpful information about buffer gardens.

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 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 Irisis 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.