On Sunday, April 22, I had the opportunity to attend the annual “State of the Lake” presentation offered by the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA). This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the creation of Candlewood Lake, the 11 mile long, 2 mile wide lake that many New Fairfielders and visitors alike enjoy every summer. Owned by the First Light power company, Candlewood is part of the Housatonic watershed and is fed by the Housatonic River. Although the Lake faces some challenges, the CLA is seeing some improvement in both water quality and invasive species.
Among the most concerning of the invasive species is Eurasian milfoil. The aquatic plant is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, and can grow to be almost 6 feet long. In an effort to combat the milfoil, the CLA introduced approximately 8,300 triploid grass carp between the years 2015 and 2017, including 48 “tagged” fish. Last summer, 585 fish were also introduced to Squantz Pond. These sterile fish feed on the milfoil, growing to a maximum length of 36 inches and weight of approximately 30 pounds. A fish can double in size from spring to fall. In northern climates such as ours, the estimated lifespan of the carp is 15-20 years. Since the carp have been introduced, Executive Director Mark Howarth reported a modest reduction in both the vegetated acres and number of surface patches of milfoil. The most dramatic effects have been noticed in the coves, where the carp enjoy a protected environment. Dr. Theodora Pinou of WCSU tracks the tagged carp every summer, and has been successful in locating 40 of the 48 traceable fish in weed beds around the lake. Read more about the carp program on the CLA website at http://www.candlewoodlakeauthority.org/milfoil
Modest gains have also been made in water quality. Nutrient levels have decreased, and water clarity has improved over the 32 years that water sampling data has been collected. However, conductivity and pH have increased in recent years, perhaps due in part to stormwater runoff from our roads. Results also indicate that stratification has become more pronounced, with less mixing of the “layers” of the lake. Some of these attributes may in fact, promote the growth of cyanobacteria, also referred to as blue-green algae.
Dr. Edwin Wong, also of WCSU, spoke about his research of cyanobacteria. Blue green algae has become a nationwide problem. The bacteria can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals, damaging the liver, brain, kidneys or skin. Dr. Wong and his team have developed an accelerated testing program for these toxins which produces results in 48-72 hours rather than the alternative 7 – 10 days. With the new test, beaches closed due to blue green algae sightings can be reopened sooner if the toxins are not present. To date, toxin levels have not exceeded USEPA guidelines; however, the levels are increasing year to year. Residents are urged to call the CLA if they notice an algae bloom near their dock or shoreline.
More detailed information can be found on the CLA website at http://www.candlewoodlakeauthority.org/bluegreenalgae
For more information about the work of the CLA, helpful resources including documents and publications, visit the website at www.candlewoodlakeauthority.org