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Water Quality Update – August 2016

– Brenda Fekete, MLRC Lake Science Manager

As we look at the end of August and we all scurry around to pack in as much of summer as we can, the WQI team continues to sample each of our seven lakes on a weekly basis.  The warm summer temperatures have made sampling so enjoyable! It has been great working with so many new and veteran volunteers this season. I cannot thank you enough for all of your help!

The WQI crew has been collecting secchi measurements and insitu water profiles for temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen since the last week of April, an average of ten visits to each of the ten DEP sampling sites to date. We have also collected horizontal grab water samples and on a biweekly schedule. These water samples are analyzed for total phosphorus and total nitrogen (using Lachat and ICP instrumentation) and metal ions, including iron and aluminum, (using ICP instrumentation) at Colby College. A monthly surface water sample is analyzed for size, number and identification of phytoplankton using the FlowCAM housed at the MLRC. The team will continue to sample until the lakes turnover near the end of October.

Despite very warm temperatures and lack of rainfall, secchi readings and temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles appear to be mimicking last year… saved by the couple of cooler weeks in June! The deep holes on Great Pond, Long Pond and Messalonskee are presently showing a dissolved oxygen level of 15 -20%. Salmon Pond and the shallower end of Messalonskee have been anoxic for several weeks. North Pond and McGrath Pond continue to mix and stay oxygenated. East Pond has recently bloomed.

Did you see something interesting floating in the stream near the MLRC in July? Our team deployed a number of different mesocosms into the stream near the MLRC to study the effect of adding different concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus to water taken from Great Pond, Long Pond, East Pond and Salmon and McGrath Ponds. After a week, the bags were removed and the water was analyzed using the FlowCam, ICP and a fluorometer to measure Chloropyll a. Looking at how algae communities respond to different nutrient concentrations can provide helpful information for controlling algae growth and aid in the development of effective management strategies.

Colby Student, Nathan Harris works with Sam Jackson to deploy the mesocosms into the stream near the MLRC. Although not pictured, Addy Seeman played a major role in the planning, building and deployment of the mesocosms.

The WQI team is also assisting the BLA Gloeotrichia Observation Project (managed by Logan Parker) by monitoring and recording Gloeo in all of the seven lakes. The presence of Gloeotrichia in Great and Long Pond appears to be much like that seen in 2015. Denise Bruesewitz and her students continue to collect samples from Great and Long Pond for Gloeotrichia analysis.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 2.22.16 PMThe presence of Metaphyton, however, has increased in our lakes. Metaphyton is a term applied to free floating filamentous algae found in shallow water that has the appearance of “clouds of cotton candy”. In can also be found attached to rocks and limbs. In response to the increase in Metaphyton, we are asking that geotagged photos, (photos taken by an iPhone or Android with location on) be sent to me or Logan. The online mapping will help us identify affected areas and design further studies. If you do not have a smartphone, please come and see us in the MLRC gallery. Your help is greatly appreciated.

At the 2016 BLA Annual Meeting on July 31st, the Belgrade Lakes Association hosted the esteemed limnologist, Dr. Ken Wagner (funded by the BLA and the BRCA) to talk about the analysis of the data collected by our 2015 WQI team and his recommendations for the remedial action for Great and Long Pond. Colby College professor, Dr. Whitney King also presented an update on this year’s findings to date.

In response to further discussion about Dr. Wagner’s concerns for Great Pond, fifty plus sediment samples from the calculated anoxic area on Great Pond are currently being collected. These samples will be analyzed for iron, aluminum and phosphorus content to help with lake remediation studies. Sediment samples will be collected from all seven lakes in the fall. Experiments to extend our study of Gloeotrichia and Metaphyton in both lakes are being designed for next year.

Specific management actions and costs for water remediation and invasive plant prevention for each lake and the entire watershed continue to be developed by an interested group of individuals from Colby College, Maine DEP, MLRC, BRCA, lake associations, towns, local businesses, community members and outside consultants. A Watershed Management Plan will provide the basis for community fund raising efforts and management actions to reverse the declining water quality and spread of invasive plants in the Belgrade Lakes. Please know that we welcome and encourage your expertise, concerns, comments and discussion in this process. A Water Quality Community meeting is scheduled to discuss the 2016 data and lake remediation on October 20, 6pm here at the MLRC. We hope to see you there!

On August 3, 2016, the new MLRC-Colby Watershed Research Project was celebrated! This partnership will secure the collaboration between the Colby arts, humanities and sciences with our treasured lakes for years to come! Thank you President David Green and Mr. Tom Klinginstein for such a wonderful opportunity.


Data continues to be displayed and updated weekly at the MLRC, on the MLRC website, and on the Belgrade Watershed Interactive Map. Please never hesitate to come into the MLRC to see what is happening or to ask questions or express concerns. Our two mudpuppies love to peek out beneath their rocks to welcome visitors in the lab!

Enjoy rest of the beautiful Maine summer! “Pulling together we can save our lakes.”