Truesdale Lake  

South Salem, New York

A Note About The Lake, Treatment, Weeds, etc.

I have received a few notes over the last month about the Lake, the weeds, last summer, and the potential of a repeat. I started to respond to each person individually but it grew into a longer note that I’d like to share here instead.

Keep in mind this is my opinion and view and I am open to corrections and I reserve the right to change my mind:

I agree last year the lake was a big problem last summer — and we are focused on not having a repeat this summer.

If you have been following along with the lake and weather the last few years (via and websites and the association membership meetings) you know it has been an unusual stretch.

Last winter (2015-16) was unseasonably warm and ice did not cover the lake for more than 3-4 weeks over the winter before it melted. This allowed the plants to get a huge head start in the Spring of 2016 since the sun is shining on them where they would normally be in ice and snow covered shadow for 3-4 months. Couple that with the failure of NY State DEC to approve our (routine) treatment permits until mid-July and it was a recipe for disaster. The permits have routinely been issued to us for over 30 years by late April or early May. From what I understand this was due to understaffing and budget cuts in the department that approves permits.

By the time the permits were approved in mid-July 2016, it was too late to treat for weeds. With the amount of weeds at their peak it would have created a massive die-off if they were treated. This would have created an anaerobic field day for algae blooms. If you thought the weeds were bad, the algae is worse — and certain types (which we haven’t had) are potentially toxic.

Last summer we hand cleared the TEA beach area with a few members — I spent 40 hours over two weekends clearing the weeds from the swimming area and moving them off the beach. A few dedicated people helped after we put out the word via email blast and the next-door Truesdale website. I personally am very thankful for the ones who came out to help because we all have a lot going on. We got a lot done and it looked great — for about a week.

We also hired a mechanical harvester from Princeton Hydro just after then — but weeds are like grass and they were back within a week or so after being cut. This is also very expensive — $1000/day to have this harvester at the lake with a minimum of 5 days for that rate. We were desperate last year so we employed all possible resources. I am not sure we’d do it again, but never say never.

One advantage of mechanical harvesting or hand harvesting is that you remove the plants from the lake and deny those nutrients captured inside the removed plant a chance to feed the next generation of plants in the lake. Theoretically this will make the lake less productive over time. This can be very effective in a smaller local area such as around a dock or along a stretch of waterfront.

Getting back to treatment and lake management — So what has happened as a result of last summer? Did anything change? Yes. The associations fired the treatment company (Solitude, Inc.) since we felt they shared a big part of the blame for the lack of treatment permits and they were not as responsive after their expansion a few years ago. They had worked with Truesdale for almost 40 years so firing them was a pretty significant move. We always paid them to do this stuff and they failed miserably last year. We have hired a new company starting this year (The Pond and Lake Connection, Inc.). The TLPOA has also contracted with Princeton Hydro to devise a long-term plan.

Cut to the present day: The conditions over this past winter (2016-17) were not quite as warm as 2015-16. But it was still a mild winter with about 1/2 the ice cover time of a typical winter. However, this time around we have the treatment permits in place — which will keep the biomass of the weeds from getting out of control like last year. The new company has been very responsive and they are local (based in Brookfield, CT). The prior company (Allied Biological – renamed Solitude) is based in Hackettstown NJ which is about 90 minutes away. They also went through an expansion and merger and I think that caused them to lose focus.

The Pond and Lake Connection came and we received the first herbicde treatment this past Tuesday 5/16 and are waiting and watching the results.

With all this above being said there are several other things to keep in mind, in no particular order:

  • Truesdale is a lake, which has natural living things in it. We need to maintain a balance for the health of the lake. It will never be a swimming pool. I think many understand this after having lived here for years, but occasionally new residents are unrealistic in their expectations of water clarity and plant-free water.
  • Truesdale is a shallow lake (deepest part overall is 16 feet, with the south end near the TEA beach having a deepest point around 8 feet) and that means the sun is always able to reach the bottom of the lake. This means the entire 83 acres is fertile ground for plant growth. It is going to happen. We can only affect it a certain amount.
  • Herbicides and Algaecides are not perfect by any stretch. They are effective in the short term, but they dissipate and dilute by their nature. However, they are the most cost-effective solution we have.
  • Solutions other than herbicide treatment can be very expensive (dredging, mechanical harvesting) and would require a steady source of tax-based revenue and a tax district to do on a lake-wide scale. There are some smaller scale (i.e several households size) efforts underway to address specific dredging areas, but the projects are being undertaken financially by individual homeowners or groups of homeowners, not lake-wide.
  • Other weed control alternatives like grass carp are essentially undirected biological weapons that give no guarantee that the carp will eat 1.) where your want them eat to and 2.) what you want them to eat. They can end up decimating the native plant life and allowing invasive plants to gain even more of a foothold. The fish can also root around the bottom of our lake, stirring up muck and nutrients and actually causing more problems with water clarity and weed growth. They also cannot be fished out if they become a problem.
  • Everything we do is a trade-off between time, money, and effectiveness. In addition to keeping a balance of nature, we are trying to balance the checkbook.

The bottom line is any solutions are management, not complete control. We have a limited number of levers to move to affect weeds and algae, and we (and the professionals we hire) do their best in the environment we are given.

New ideas and undertakings are always welcome — we are all in this together.