Collins Lake in Scotia needs more weeds — not fewer — before it can once again be used for public swimming.
The village has stopped treating the lake with Sonar, an herbicide that attacks the plants on the bottom of the lake, so that more plants will grow and tie up the clay sediment that’s making the lake too murky for public swimming.
There has been no swimming at the lake since Tropical Storm Irene sent the lake’s waters flooding over its banks and into the park in August 2011. The Collins Park beach will stay closed this summer and the clay sediment from the storm continues to be the reason for the beach’s closure, said Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg.
“As the water receded, it was so stirred up it had a lot of clay sediment in it,” he said. “That stayed suspended in the water.”
To pass the county Health Department’s inspections, the public swimming area must have 4 feet of visibility at all times. The village’s testing of the water this season has yielded mixed results, ranging from 10 feet of visibility to hardly any, Kastberg said. The regulations are meant to protect swimmers, as lifeguards need to be able to see them underwater.
“It’s getting better every year,” Kastberg said of the visibility. “It’ll be good on a calm day, but since you have to test every hour, it’s going to get cloudy again.”
Because the test results have been so varied, the village decided to wait at least another year before reopening the beach and hiring lifeguards for the summer, he said.
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, Judy Tobin of Scotia brought her 2-year-old grandson, Lucas, to play on the Collins Park playground. She said he loves to swim, and she would bring him to swim in the lake if it were open and “if it were clean.”
His parents often take him swimming at Sacandaga Lake and Lake George.
“There’s nothing too close to really go swimming around here,” she said.
The Scotia beach is the only public beach in the county, Kastberg said.
“We are the only sand beach swimming area in Schenectady County, so we’d like to get that back,” he said.
The village is working with the Clearwater Institute and Union College to make the lake swimmable again. After treating the lake with Sonar five years ago, the village did not re-treat the lake this year in hopes that the plants will grow and tie up some of the sediment, Kastberg said.
Two years ago, the village treated the lake with alum, a chemical compound that clumps the sediment particles together and makes them fall to the bottom of the lake, and it continues to do so, Kastberg said.
“But it’s still very fluffy,” he said. “With strong winds and swimming, it plumes back up.”
More plants in the lake would help prevent that, he said.
“Hopefully the plants will start to bind that stuff down at the bottom,” he said.