It seems odd that a country capable of sending submersible vessels to the deepest waters on earth, with technology so advanced it can measure how much carbon is dissolved in the oceans, still can’t figure out how to rid South Sound lakes of toxic algae.
A half dozen or more lakes in Pierce County have been cursed with eruptions of nasty blue-green algae for several years, none worse than Wapato Lake in Tacoma and Waughop and Steilacoom lakes in Lakewood. Frequent Health Department warnings have led to restrictions on swimming, boating and fishing.
An old native legend holds that Lake Steilacoom is haunted by a female monster known as Whe-atchee. The Nisqually tribe refuses to bathe, swim or fish in the lake. Apparently, they were ahead of their time.
Local outdoors people should be pleased that steps are being taken this spring to temporarily control algae blooms on two lakes. As the weather warms, Metro Parks plans a treatment at Wapato Lake that the agency believes will clear the water quickly and render it algae-free for five to eight years.
We trust they’ve learned from the disaster of 2008, when a supplier delivered an overly acidic mix of chemicals that triggered a mass fish kill — a blunder one might expect from an amateur home aquarium owner.
Meanwhile, Lakewood officials have agreed to spend $250,000 on their own temporary alum treatment at Waughop Lake, a 30-acre body of water in Fort Steilacoom Park popular for its walking trail.
Many water-quality experts have set their minds to the task over the years. Copper sulfate was the treatment of choice until Washington banned it in 1992 for environmental reasons. Since then, the nonprofit Lake Steilacoom Improvement Club has tried everything from a water-soluble product called Green Clean to a series of steel contraptions, called Solar Bees, that were supposed to control algae growth by churning the water.
The consensus solution is to dredge decades of nutrient-rich sediment from the lake bottom, which Lakewood says would cost unaffordable millions at Waughop Lake.
This stands out as the best long-term fix, rather than routinely dumping thousands of gallons of volatile chemicals into the water. City and parks officials should pursue state funds and outside grant resources for dredging after the next alum applications wear off.
For now, Metro Parks is hosting a public meeting on its upcoming lake treatment at 6 p.m. Thursday (March 30) in the Wapato Park Pavilion. Anyone with a heart for preserving urban lakes might find it insightful.