Lake Boren water quality stable over past decade

October 7, 2009

By Tim Pfarr

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Residents say winter quality is another story

In a January 2009 report, the King County Lake Stewardship Program said Lake Boren’s water quality appears to be stable over the past decade. However, residents who live near the lake said they are concerned about the lake’s water quality in the winter months, when large volumes of storm water flow into the lake, bringing silt and potentially bacteria with it.Dave Gillet, a lake resident since 1977, said he agrees that the water quality of the lake is quite good during summer, and he said he is glad to hear the news. However, things change come November, he said.

“The whole lake gets muddied up like crazy,” he said.

Robert Paterson, a lake resident since 1971, said the raw volume of water in the lake concerns him, and that the city is using it as a catch basin. He said the lake’s inflow, China Creek, used to dry up in summer, but now flows year round due to development in the area, collecting runoff from surrounding areas.

“We’ve got a wonderful lake here for the community,” Paterson said, adding he wished city officials would pay more attention to the lake. “To just abuse it like they are is just kind of a shame.”

He also agrees that the lake’s quality does not reach unhealthy levels during summer, but he said in the winter, it may be a different story.

Lois Coates, a lake resident since 1961, said the lake’s water quality in summer isn’t what residents are questioning.

“They need to check the lake in the winter,” Coates said. “In the winter, this lake is terrible.”

Newcastle officials have worked with agencies including the stewardship program to monitor Lake Boren’s health since the mid-1990s; and in 2005, they began a special study of fecal coliform bacteria in the lake to detect E. coli. The city now contracts with the stewardship program to monitor the lake’s health.

The program monitors water quality from May to October.

Sally Abella, program manager of the program, said the lake’s water quality is monitored from May to October because this period coincides with the lake’s recreational season, the nicest period of weather and the growing season of vegetation.

Abella said silt can affect a fish’s ability to see prey (which can be significant because fish are visual predators), and through a complex process, silt can create an oxygen deficit in some situations. Oxygen deficits can make water less inhabitable for fish, but such deficits have not occurred in Lake Boren.

Abella also said silt typically settles to the bottom of the lake within about a week of its arrival and high sediment concentrations do not necessarily affect water quality.

That response doesn’t satisfy Paterson.

“If gravel, sand and silt are coming into the lake, that’s not a healthy situation,” he said, noting that solid materials take up space in the water and cause the lake’s level to rise.

He said he feels city officials should be protecting the lake, and they’re not.

“They’re the ones responsible for all the inflow, because they issued all the building permits,” he said.

Gillet agreed, and said he doesn’t believe the silt ever fully settles with the large volume of water that flows into the lake in winter.

“I don’t think the fish stocks are healthy when the lake is muddied up for two, three months of the year,” he said.

He said he would also like to see the city help with the silt problem.

“It would be nice as a taxpayer to receive some help from your city,” he said

In the 2008 study of the fecal coliform bacteria, program officials concluded that E. coli is not a recurring threat in the lake for recreational users. However, levels of fecal bacteria increased between 2007 and 2008, and program officials “strongly recommended that E. coli monitoring continue in 2009.”

Program officials are conducting a 2009 water quality study, and plan to have the results in November. They will not announce the results, but will instead submit them to city officials.

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