OAKLAND — Nearly a year after an alum treatment was applied to the floor of East Pond to curb algae blooms, officials report that the $1.04 million investment already is paying off.

“Every morning I walk down to my dock,” said Jerry Tipper, who led the fundraising efforts for the restoration project. “I can see a rock between me and (neighbor) Mel Croft that I’ve never seen before.”

The water is clearer than it has been in over 20 years, and the amount of phosphorous — the primary nutrient that makes algae grow — has dropped nearly 30 percent, according to Laura Rose Day, president of the 7 Lakes Alliance. The 7 Lakes Alliance and the East Pond Association worked together on the East Pond conservation project.

“The samples are being analyzed, but we should know … really soon,” she told East Pond Association members Saturday morning at their annual meeting. “Danielle is very confident that we’re under 10 parts per billion.”

Previously, the abundance of algae turned the water cloudy and green by mid-August, raised concerns about toxicity levels and threatened the economic success of businesses and camps along East Pond’s shoreline. Virginia-based SOLitude spread 362,000 gallons of the aluminum sulfate, or alum, treatment last June and October across roughly 670 acres of the lake, which became the largest in New England to receive the treatment. While it is expected to last 15 to 20 years, Day said its longevity will depend on the entire community’s continued diligence.

“Anything you’re doing to prevent erosion into the lake is going to extend the life of the alum treatment,” she noted.

Homeowners can receive free feedback on how to prevent harmful runoff from their property through the Maine Lakes Society’s LakeSmart program. Over 35 properties on East Pond have been certified as LakeSmart to date, said local leader and East Pond Association member Mel Croft. A $200,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation that helped finance the alum treatment requires an increase in the number of properties with this environmentally friendly designation.

East Pond Association President Rob Jones addresses association members at the group’s annual meeting Saturday at the Birchcrest Lodge in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Meg Robbins

The project also was financed through a $232,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and about $600,000 raised from residents, camps and other businesses that use East Pond.

Members of the 7 Lakes Alliance and the East Pond Association still are working with scientists from Colby College to determine whether wake boats, anchors and other factors adversely affect the alum treatment. New Hampshire, Vermont, Oregon and Idaho all have considered banning wake boats, which create a surfable wave and can disturb the water at depths of up to 20 feet. Any part of East Pond greater than 5 feet deep received the treatment, according to East Pond Association President Rob Jones.

The treatment had a ripple effect on the ecosystem.

“(With the alum treatment), we didn’t have a thermocline — which is a delineation between warm water and cold water — so we didn’t get a situation on the bottom of the lake where there was no oxygen,” Jones explained. “Historically, the lack of oxygen was what enabled the phosphorous to get into the water (and feed the algae).”

“But what we didn’t expect to happen,” East Pond Association member John Brandt continued, “was when they applied the alum, it went down the water column and almost acted as a sieve. It took the algae with it and bound it up at the bottom of the lake.”

Jones said the group has become a resource for other lakes groups that want to know how to roll out similar projects. Day noted that Great Pond in Belgrade and Rome probably will be the next water body in the region to consider introducing the alum mixture.

“It’s the beginning of a new era,” Day said.

People embrace the hot weather Saturday as they harness the wind with their sails on East Pond in Oakland. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

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