Franklin takes a $10,000 step toward cleaning up Lake Carmi

An outbreak of blue-green algae has closed Lake Carmi in northern Vermont.
Franklin residents voted Tuesday in favor of spending $10,000 toward the cost of an aeration device that the Agency of Natural Resources says might prevent or lessen the severity of cyanobacteria blooms caused by farm pollution in Lake Carmi.
The device could consist of a perforated hose stretching thousands of feet along the bottom of the lake, or it might entail floating platforms with onboard pumps, but either way would agitate the water in order to introduce oxygen into it.
Franklin residents voted 54 to 13 in favor of the proposal, which would cover only a fraction of an effort the ANR initially estimated to cost $200,000, but now says could cost $1.6 million.
The $10,000 approved on Tuesday would cover the cost of electricity to operate the aerator, Perry Thomas, the ANR’s Lakes and Ponds Management and Protection Program Manager, told Franklin residents at the town’s meeting.
Cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Carmi are caused by phosphorus pollution, 85 percent of which comes from dairy farms in the Lake Carmi watershed, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Cyanobacteria is known also as blue-green algae.
Cyanobacteria blooms can occur when organisms deplete oxygen from water at the bottom of the lake, mobilizing pollution that has settled on the lake bed, Thomas said. Cyanobacteria grows best in still water.
An aerator would address both these conditions, Thomas said.
The aerator won’t reduce the level of pollution in Lake Carmi, nor will it reduce the rate at which the lake is being polluted, said Franklin selectboard member Peter Magnant. But it could control the cyanobacteria blooms caused by that pollution, he said.
Some Franklin residents objected to spending town money to control only the symptoms without addressing the ongoing pollution problem.
“This is a waste of money,” Rob Cormier told fellow Franklin residents at the meeting. “You have to stop the flow of what’s going into the lake.
“It’s kind of like putting an aeration thing in your toilet and expecting your toilet to stay clean” while still being used, Cormier said.
A group of consultants wrote a report for the Department of Environmental Conservation this year evaluating several treatment options to control the lake’s cyanobacteria blooms.
Some of the options presented in the report, such as dredging, won’t work until the state halts or slows the rate of Lake Carmi’s phosphorus pollution, the report says. Ongoing pollution will also reduce the effectiveness of a proposed chemical treatment that would utilize an aluminum salt called alum, it says.
“Continued phosphorus loading from the Lake Carmi watershed is a concern and can potentially reduce the effectiveness of any in-lake treatment,” the report says.
For 10 years, Vermont has been under a federal order to dramatically reduce the rate of pollution in Lake Carmi. Yet long-time Franklin residents say the cyanobacteria blooms this summer were the worst they’ve ever seen.
“We can’t deal with another summer like we had this year,” said Rob Evans, a surface-waters manager with the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Vermont Department of Health issued a health warning against recreating in Lake Carmi that lasted three months last summer, as a result of a toxic bacteria bloom. Lake Carmi State Park contains the largest campground in any Vermont state park.
Read the story on VTDigger here: Franklin takes a $10,000 step toward cleaning up Lake Carmi.