Newton Lake plans include algae removal

Originally from the Courier Post

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COLLINGSWOOD – A sprawling park between Cuthbert Boulevard and the White Horse Pike includes two playgrounds, three picnic areas, more than two miles of bike paths, a boat ramp, fishing piers, a matrimony garden, and of course, a lake.

But Newton Lake Park also has a less attractive feature: A thick layer of fluorescent green algae covers its namesake waterway.

Beginning Monday, however, that may change.

An amphibious collection machine — the Truxor — will be stationed near the 103-acre park. It will rake, collect and remove algae mats, then unload them onto a motorized barge for off-site disposal. The Troxor can harvest up to an acre of algae each day.

Princeton Hydro, a Ringoes-based company with an office in Sicklerville, will also add a nontoxic algaecide to the lake, which runs through Collingswood, Haddon Township and Oaklyn. It should take about four collection cycles, based on the density of the algae, according to the firm.

County officials, who oversee the park’s maintenance, will hold a public meeting on the cleanup effort in Oaklyn on Monday night.

“I’ve personally talked to hundreds of residents in the area and I agree with them that something has to be done to clear the muck off of Newton,” said Freeholder Jeffrey Nash. He said earlier efforts to address the problem were unable to defeat “this strain of invasive plant life.”

The county earlier this year installed five aerators as part of a $120,000 project to get the water flowing again. That tactic succeeded at Columbia Lake in Cherry Hill, but not at Newton Lake, said county spokesman Dan Keashen.

Collingswood Director of Community Development Cass Duffey attributed the problem to a combination of factors, including a change in flow patterns.

“There are chemicals and pesticides that flow into the lake,” Duffey said. “(The change of flow patterns) changed how the body of water moves. It is more stagnant, and there is less sewage.”

The Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority removed the sewage from Newton Lake in 1988; a year later, bacteria levels dropped 90 percent but it made the lake shallower and disrupted the flow patterns of the lake.

Even though the lack of sewage is a good thing, the shallower lake allows the sun to reach the bottom. According to Duffey, “it encourages the growth of all sorts of things.”

Local residents agree the lake has a problem.

“My girlfriend and I walked around the lake about one month ago, and around the 25th dead fish, we decided to stop counting,” said Collingswood resident Nathan Spivey. “I would be hard-pressed to eat fish from there, let alone swim in it.”

Matthew Prusienski has been coming to the lake for about a year to fish. He, too, noticed a change in the lake over the past year.

“The fishing isn’t too good,” the Haddon Township resident admitted. “It’s so dirty and muggy, it’s hard for the fish to see the bait. I’ve never really caught much here.”

Other park-goers offered a different point of view. Malik Cadwell of Pennsauken was sitting on a bench with Spivey. It was his first time visiting Newton Lake Park.

“It’s nice, placid and peaceful,” Cadwell said.

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