Besides the problems caused by phosphorous, invasive milfoil is a problem at Great Pond in Belgrade. With collection bag in hand, Sharon Mann jumps out of the boat to pull out variable milfoil in North Bay of Great Pond on June 28, 2019, in Belgrade. This week, representatives of the 7 Lakes Alliance and Belgrade Lakes Association briefed local communities about water quality in the watershed. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

A survey found 237 sites where pollution around Great Pond affected the water quality of the lake, representatives of the 7 Lakes Alliance and Belgrade Lakes Association said at a virtual meeting Thursday night.

The two groups briefed the communities of the watershed, including Belgrade, Rome, Smithfield and Mercer, on next steps to address the causes and solutions to the problems affecting the lake.

Great Pond is on the state’s list of priority watersheds due to declining water clarity caused by increased phosphorus. Phosphorus is the main culprit for worsened fish habitats and algal blooms and gets to the lake via runoff.

According to the EPA website, nonpoint source pollution “generally results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification” and comes from multiple sources.

The Great Pond watershed survey, which was conducted in October 2018, identified 237 sites where nonpoint source pollution around Great Pond affected the water quality. Of those, 62% come from residential properties and 19% come from erosion caused by driveways and roads. The last time Great Pond was surveyed was in 1999 and 2000.

“It’s about reversing the trend of worsening water quality,” said Carol Johnson, president of Belgrade Lakes Association. “It’s about keeping dirt out of the lake.”

The Great Pond watershed, which includes 8,200 acres of surface area and covers 32 square miles, is occupied by parts of the towns of Belgrade, Rome, Smithfield and Mercer. Surrounding the watershed are 1,578 landowners.

The Belgrade Lakes Association provided recommendations to help address the problems. Individuals can help by stabilizing shore lines and footpaths, maintaining private roads and driveways and controlling erosion, according to the organization’s website.

Invasive milfoil that collects debris is also a problem.

Charlie Baeder, director of conservation programs for the 7 Lakes Alliance, said more than 33,000 gallons of milfoil have been removed. The overall water quality is OK, but leaning in the wrong direction.

“By national standards we’re doing well, but we’re concerned about the trends,” Baeder said.

The Great Pond watershed project’s planning was funded through an $18,622 grant awarded in 2018 to the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District. The EPA grant funds were administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The Belgrade Lakes Association contributed funding and volunteers, and the 7 Lakes Alliance contributed paid staff time and volunteers.

Following release of the survey results, 7 Lakes Alliance and the Belgrade Lakes Association representatives will work with landowners to address the residential areas that contribute nonpoint source pollution into Great Pond as well as towns and road associations and the remedies available to them.

Belgrade Town Manager Anthony Wilson said the town recently established a lakes committee.

A 10-year watershed management plan is to be established in January.

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