HUMAN-MADE LAKE STRESSORS
In addition to erosion, shoreline encroachment, and presence of invasive species, the water quality of our lakes can be significantly impacted by other human-made lake stressors. Be a good lake citizen by doing what you can to reduce the following.
Phosphorus. Phosphorus is a fertilizer, and as such, promotes the growth of algae and aquatic plants in lakes. This phosphorus comes from eroded soil, lawn fertilizers, road dust, grass clippings, motor oil, septic system effluent, and other sources. With excessive phosphorus comes excessive algae which reduces water transparency, alters wildlife habitat, impairs scenic views, reduces recreational appeal and lowers property values. Use non-phosphate detergents. Check the labels of products purchased outside of Vermont. Detergents containing phosphate have been banned in Vermont. Do not wash cars near lakes, streams, or drainage ditches. This can lead to phosphorus going directly into the lake. Other things you can do include limiting use of fertilizers, preventing yard waste (grass clippings, leaves, soil) from entering the lakes, pick up pet waste, mow higher, and take steps to prevent erosion.
Septic Systems. Septic systems can impact local drinking water wells or surface water bodies. The extent of this impact depends on how well your septic system is maintained and if it is used properly. A poor or overloaded system can introduce disease-causing organisms into the lakes resulting in a human health threat. Learn about your septic system. Some of those around the lakes are very old. Don’t add garbage disposals or washing machines unless you are sure your system meets current standards. Remember that adding bedrooms to your cottage might require additional septic capacity. Pump septic tanks every few years and replace systems that don’t meet standards.
Learn more here.
Wastewater. The less water that goes through a septic system, the longer it will last and the less it will be stressed. Take steps to use water more efficiently. Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in toilets or sinks, such as household chemicals and cleaners, medications, paint, stains, and solvents, gasoline and oil, lawn care products, and antifreeze.
Lead. Switch from lead sinkers to those made from steel or other materials. Lead sinkers lost in the lakes are often mistakenly eaten by fish or waterfowl such as loons causing deaths due to lead poisoning.
Gas When considering an engine change, please replace two-stroke engines with four- stroke or direct-injection two-stroke engines. Two-stroke motors emit 20-30% of the fuel-oil mixture unburned into the lake. Four-stroke engines are quieter, use half the gas, and have 90% fewer emissions.
LRA's So You Live on a Lake Handbook covers these issues and more.