June 18, 2008

Company Shares Results of Crystal Lake Experiment

By Matthew K. Roy, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

Jun. 18--PEABODY -- The experimental dredging of Crystal Lake satisfied the company responsible for it, but not the Friends of Peabody Lakes, a community group dedicated to the protection and cleanup of the city's waters.

During a first-of-its-kind test, genetically created bacteria consumed a portion of the organic sediment that is choking the 10-acre pond. The testing company, Bioquatic Supply of Maynard, estimated that it was able to degrade about 1,200 cubic yards of material in a roughly 5,000-square-foot section of Crystal Lake. The test ran from June to November.

"We feel very positive about what we did," Steve Wilchinski of Bioquatic told the City Council's ad hoc committee on Crystal Lake last week.

However, the company's final report did not elicit an enthusiastic response from the Friends of Peabody Lakes.

"We feel that biodredging is ineffective," member Jack McMahon said.

The group pressed the council for a quicker, more comprehensive solution for the plight of Crystal Lake.

"We need a plan," McMahon said.

The problem in the West Peabody lake is the buildup of organic matter and sediment, which transformed waters once deep enough for swimming into a shallow pond overrun with weeds. A survey revealed that up to 41,000 cubic yards of sediment has to be removed to achieve a desired depth of 8 feet.

But plans to dredge the lake and its nearby cousin, Elginwood Pond, have been stymied by the cost. The price to mechanically dredge Crystal Lake could run as high as $2 million, City Planner Blair Haney said.

Councilors echoed the sense of urgency expressed by the Friends of Peabody Lakes.

Councilor Ted Bettencourt said that the city should explore buying its own dredging machine to do the work.

"There's value in a dredge," Bettencourt said. The city could use it for other projects or lease it to other communities, he said.

The city spent $25,000 on biodredging. The experiment got off to a rocky start for Bioquatic. The company lost the field book with the recorded, baseline levels of sediment in the lake. It then had to measure the sediment depth in the test area and compare it to depths outside that area.

Haney acknowledged that, even if the city chose to biodredge, it would need to be supplemented by mechanical dredging to remove the inorganic material in the lake.

The city has received a total of $800,000 from the state to address Crystal Lake's issues. The ad hoc committee will meet again on June 26 in City Hall to discuss the city's options.

"We can make Crystal Lake and Elginwood Pond the crown jewel that it used to be," McMahon said.


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