Friends of Vancouver Lake looking for ways to improve water quality

Workshop showcases potential solution to excess phosphorus in lake

Experts in the field of water quality and Friends of Vancouver Lake joined together Thursday at Burnt Bridge Creek at Leverich Park, offering a workshop to showcase one of the ways to improve the lake. 

Scott Shuler of EutroPHIX was one of the experts on water quality who gave a presentation at Leverich Park on Thursday along with Friends of Vancouver Lake. Burnt Bridge Creek, which runs through Leverich Park, flows into Vancouver Lake. Photo by Paul Valencia
Scott Shuler of EutroPHIX was one of the experts on water quality who gave a presentation at Leverich Park on Thursday along with Friends of Vancouver Lake. Burnt Bridge Creek, which runs through Leverich Park, flows into Vancouver Lake. Photo by Paul Valencia

“We’re all about swinging at pitches. We’re not going to watch the pitches go by anymore,” said Kathie Gillespie of Friends of Vancouver Lake. “We’re going to fail sometimes, and we’re going to be successful sometimes. But we’re going to act. We’re acting.”

Gillespie said the community is losing up to $4 million a year because of summer closures on the lake due to water quality, with sailing clubs and other recreational activities having to be cancelled or postponed. 

Friends of Vancouver Lake, she said, has seen its successes already by netting carp and treating millfoil. But the battle for a better quality of water, making for a better quality of life for the lake and those who use the lake, is relatively new.

Scott Shuler of EutroPHIX, who was at Leverich Park on Thursday to show a new filtration system to capture phosphorus, noted that the Environmental Protection Agency put Vancouver Lake in a report titled Problematic Lakes of the United States. … That report, Shuler added, came out in 1971.

“From a water quality perspective, the lake’s not much better today than 50 years ago,” Shuler said. “If it was a problem in 1971, then we definitely need to start doing something to improve the lake.”

Which brought FoVL and EutroPHIX and others to Leverich Park on Thursday, close to Burnt Bridge Creek. The creek, which flows into Vancouver Lake, accounts for about 5 percent of the water in the lake but upwards of 50 percent of phosphorus. The more phosphorus in a body of water means more toxic algae rather than beneficial algae. 

Scott Shuler of EutroPHIX shows a couple of the filtration system units of a new product called EutroSORB, which absorbs phosphorus. Vancouver Lake has too much phosphorus, which creates toxic algae. Photo by Paul Valencia
Scott Shuler of EutroPHIX shows a couple of the filtration system units of a new product called EutroSORB, which absorbs phosphorus. Vancouver Lake has too much phosphorus, which creates toxic algae. Photo by Paul Valencia

One pound of phosphorus can lead to 500 pounds of algae, Shuler said. It is believed that Burnt Bridge Creek delivers 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of phosphorus annually.

Shuler and colleagues were on hand to show a new product that could bring those numbers down considerably. EutroSORB can be put in the water, safely, and absorb most of the phosphate. 

The system can look like a series of rocks in the creek. Water flows through the filter, and the filters find the phosphate.

“It’s leaving everything that’s good and attracting everything that’s bad,” Gillespie said. “In this case, phosphorus.”

Two tests performed Thursday morning showed reductions in phosphate of 93 percent and 87 percent in just a few minutes.

The cost can be anywhere from $200 to $350 per pound of removal, Shuler said. It should be noted, however, that not all 5,000 pounds of phosphate annually from the creek needs to be stopped. The goal would be to reduce the number of pounds going to the lake.

Gillespie said people don’t want experts to stand around and say they don’t know what to do. 

“They expect you to say, ‘I’m going to try this,’” she said.

Friends of Vancouver Lake has the attitude of finding what will work.

“We’re going to win more than we’re going to lose,” Gillespie said. “Then the lake will win and the people will win.”

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Sebastian Charbonneau
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Sebastian Charbonneau
1 month ago

Why doesn’t the county just open the valve at the south end of the lake and let the water flow in and out as it naturally should through tidal movement? The milfoil and algae thrive in festering and stagnant water. People have over engineered the lake to it’s total detriment.

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