T he long-awaited aeration project being conducted by the Lake St. Catherine Conservation Fund is now at work in full force. On July 31, in a noontime ribbon-cutting ceremony, directors of the LSCCF, their wives and children, state Rep. John Malcolm and Wells Selectman Rich Strange gathered at lakeside to celebrate turning on the system, introducing aeration to a Vermont lake for the first time ever.
The project involves the use of nine submerged air diffusers over an area of about 15 acres (just under 10 percent) of Little Lake. Air is pumped through the diffusers into the lake to provide oxygen to enable natural microbes — currently oxygen-deprived — to conduct their activity in decomposing the sediment. As a side benefit, it provides a healthy, oxygen-rich environment for fish.
After studying the aeration process extensively and visiting lakes where it has been shown to be successful in reducing nuisance vegetation and sediment, the LSCCF planned the project and applied early in 2011 to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit. The original plan was to treat a large portion of the lake. Rep. Malcolm provided support in the acquisition of state permission, and in the spring of 2012 the LSCCF project gained approval by the state. The resulting permit restricted the treatment area to only a small part of the lake as a precaution. Because the procedure has never been used in any Vermont lake, DEC was cautious to make sure there were no adverse effects.
The project cost over $40,000, and the source of the funding was the LSCCF membership and a $12,000 grant from the Town of Wells. LSCCF is hopeful that with positive results, the treatment area can be expanded to other parts of the lake. In fact, the LSCCF hopes that this will provide a model for lakes all across the state that are also undergoing sediment buildup, shallowing waters and rapidly expanding nuisance vegetation.
The aeration equipment consists of an electric compressor which pumps air through weighted hoses to square ceramic diffusers. The compressor emits a quiet hum, and a crown of bubbles appears above the location of each diffuser. The system does not disturb any kind of recreational use on the lake, and boats are able to pass over the area without harm to the system or to the boats.