Work to clean up waterways is underway


Ann Genader file photo

BY ANN GENADER
WEST MILFORD – It appears decades of empty promises of money to fund and address pollution sources in local waterways has come to an end as use of available dollars from two reliable sources is a current action topic for area environmental leaders and officials.
The Greenwood Lake Commission and West Milford Environmental Commission fought and won some grant funds over the years but there was never enough money to do the extensive investigation and problem solving needed to resolve long existing water issues.
Commission Co-Chair Paul Zarrillo said the state Environmental and Solid Waste Committee has heard and answered the request for establishing a permanent, annual, $500,000 funding source for Greenwood Lake as presented in Bill A 3804.
The Assembly unanimously approved the document on Jan. 24, and its companion bill, S-2167, passed earlier in the state senate.
Zarrillo said the bill is now waiting to be heard in appropriations.
The other money source to help address water problems is a $90,000 Highlands Council grant that was announced in the fall.
“Our hard work is starting to take hold,” said Zarrillo. “This is a good way to start the New Year.”
Environmental Committee Chair Steve Sangle scheduled a Water Implementation Plan discussion at the March 4 meeting concerning the council's grantn and is inviting state, county and local government officials; residents, the press, and anyone else interested and wants to attend.
Princeton Hydro will be managing the entire project. Dr. Fred Lubnow of the professional firm works closely with the EC and GLC and will be at the discussion. The company worked with the GLC to complete the grant application to the HC.
“If and when the funding legislation is passed the GLC has discussed several potential projects for the funding with improvement of Belcher’s Creek number one,” Zarrillo said.
A very comprehensive study of Belcher’s Creek, long recognized by area environmentalists as a major source of Greenwood Lake pollution is among the locations that the money from the Highlands Council will address. It is the main location to be studied by Princeton Hydro.
Test results from previous water and sediment studies over the past three years by Montclair State University will be reviewed by Princeton Hydro and added to the study.
The EC has been testing the waters of Belcher’s Creek as well as its water’s entrance to Greenwood Lake for several years to see if nitrates and phosphates would indicate possible fecal coliform contamination.
“Our subcommittee has already been studying Belcher’s Creek cleanup to increase usage of it for recreational use,” said Sangle. "Our members Jim Rogers, Doug Trainer, and Clint Smith have been attending the township’s lakes committee meetings to help in the grant process. We were asked to do this by former Mayor Bettina Bieri.”
Sangle said the EC committee also tracks such items as weather conditions, rainfall, air and water temperature.
“When, and if, these levels show excessive high results we will request our Health Department to follow up with more focused testing,” Sangle said. “These tests create a baseline to be accessed for any future studies not only by us, but by the HC, GLC and local Health Department."
Zarrillo said that the money is being made available through a Regional Master Plan fund entitled Lake Management Planning Grant.
A kick-off meeting with Princeton Hydro, the Highlands Council, and eight other stakeholders regarding the $90,000 grant was held on Jan. 23 at West Milford Library.
Sangle said there was an outstanding turnout of representatives who have high interest in making the project a success.
The project consists of eight specific tasks, with associated costs, deliverables and a timeline for completion.
It will be a very comprehensive study of Belcher’s Creek, as well as two locations in the area of the East Arm on the New York side of the lake. Belcher’s Creek has always been recognized as a major pollutant of the lake.
The study will range from water monitoring, stormwater data review, ecological assessments, TP loads, recommendations for in-stream and stream bank projects as well as public meetings.
“Once the study is completed and reviewed by the commission, we will need to reach out for funding to administer and complete the various projects that will improve the water quality of Belcher’s Creek and Greenwood Lake,” Zarrillo said.”
Highlands Council Chairman Carl Richko and HC staff members Keri Green and Kelley Curran met with the West Milford Lakes Commission and the West Milford Lakes Committee on Oct. 15, 2018.
“It was a very positive meeting with lots of shared information and a commitment to work together to improve and or maintain the quality of water on the West Milford area, Richko told The West Milford Messenger after the meeting. “The mission and goal of the Highlands Council is to preserve the water resources for 70 percent of the state’s residents. The lake communities in West Milford have the same goal in preserving their lakes’ water quality. All of the lakes and other waterways in West Milford flow into the Pequannock River or the Wanaque River watersheds. Working together is a win-win situation for West Milford’s Lake communities and the Highlands Council.”
Sangle said it was fortunate that representatives from the Highland’s Council as well as Richko attended a meeting last fall to discuss the available grants for planning, water management and quality plans for local lakes.