ChipLakeNEWS InfoSheet

This InfoSheet is number: 1023

Summary: This InfoSheet describes the activities of the Water Quality Monitoring Program in the Chiputneticook Lakes Region.

Water Quality is ranked either first or second on the list of topics that lake association members have said are of highest importance.

CLIC no longer has a Water Quality Monitoring Chairperson.  If you
have a boat and are in the area most of the open water seasonare interested in being CLIC's WQ Secchi Disk Chairperson, please contact one of CLIC's Officers or Directors. The monitors need not be CLIC members...and some aren't.

Basicly the monitors observe “clarity” and "transparency" as factors of the water "quality" and record their measurements in depths to tenths of a meter. Testing is as follows: Go by boat to a pre-assigned location/station (usually a deep hole in the lake) twice a month from May thru September (April and October when possible). "To do the observations, we use a Secchi disk (a weighted circular disk that is marked alternately in quarters with distinct black and white pie shaped markings) on a lowering rope/tape, and a viewing scope (to be able to see clearly through surface reflections). It is lowered down into the water on a measuring tape until the white glow of the disk just disappears. When it disappears from view, you read the tape and record the depth. We also record our observation of weather conditions such as wind and cloud cover and wave conditions at the time of the observations." Wind and cloud cover hamper the observations as one wouldn't be able to get accurate measurements looking down into the water depths with higher winds, a moving boat or a heavy cloud cover. The whole process takes about 5 minutes once you've gotten to your site.

The recorded information is collected both in July and at end of the season. "The data is sent to the SCIWC office and entered into a computer. After leaving Lee Sochasky's office where she usually has summer volunteers record the data, it then goes to the Maine DEP for use by the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program where a multi-year profile is drawn of the observations."

Additionally, each monitor is required to be a part of a standardization test every two years. This is just a matter of comparing your eyesight with an appointed person who is the "standard" and then all monitor's readings are adjusted by scale between the monitor and "the standard". For this reason the readings are somewhat subjective as opposed to scientificly objective.

"To my knowledge all 19 stations have never been least not since I've been involved...but that doesn't mean we don't keep trying [to find monitors]. I will not know what is open until later in Spring and I check with my faithful crew. However, I am glad to accumulate names of interested parties." 

WATER QUALITY COMMENTS from Lee Sochasky, Director of the St. Croix International Waterway Commission:

CLIC volunteers are helping the State of Maine to track longterm trends in lake water quality AND watch for warning signs of quality change. This involves a simple 5-minute "secchi" observation at some pre-selected lake locations. This depth measure tells a lot about water clarity, which is linked to things like natural or manmade nutrients ("Will we be getting algae blooms?") and other factors like water source (marsh-fed North and Spednic Lakes have darker water than spring-fed East Grand) and time of year (lake waters mix top-to-bottom in spring and fall, stirring up particles for a short while). By comparing the test results for the same site over a number of years, any trends in changing lake quality become obvious and can be used to justify more thorough and costly technical tests.

Volunteers are trained in a two-hour session scheduled locally by the state. They commit to: 1) monitoring a specific site (one of the lake's deep holes) twice a month on any day they choose and 2) sending their results into the state data bank. In return they get an annual report comparing their findings to previous years, a certificate and the knowledge that they're doing something to protect their lake. (Although one of the volunteers says it has the added benefit of getting him out of the house when the wife has work for him to do and another says he has seen mermaids...)

Following is a list of some sample depths in several lakes recorded at different times of the year. This shows some of the variation that occurs between lakes and between times of year. It's the long term trends that count.

LAKE - Early - Mid - Late Summer
Skiff Lake - 25.6ft - 24.6ft - 24.3ft [A couple miles east of Fosterville and North Lake, NB]
NORTH Lake - 9.8ft - 10.5ft - 11ft [A small lake, marsh and stream fed]
Deering Lake - 32ft - 25ft - 33.5ft [The clearest of all these lakes]
Brackett Lake - 27.6ft - 19.3ft - 21.6ft [Below Deering and above EGL]
EAST GRAND Lake - 21.6ft - 26ft - 27ft
SPEDNIC Lake - 17ft - 17ft - 16.4ft [A large lake, marsh and stream fed]
Wauklahegan Lake - 9.7ft - 7.5ft - 8.2ft [Empties into Palfrey/Spednic Lake, near McAdam, NB]

The St. Croix International Waterway Commission does detailed water testing on the lakes every six years, applying for grants from various sources to carry this out. CLIC members often help by boating the water technician to the test sites (the same sites used for secchi testing).
The technician collects water samples from four depths (top-to-bottom) at each site [a "bottomless" and "topless" bottle is lowered to the desired depth then a weight is slid down the lowering rope that triggers the lid and bottom springs to snap closed, trapping water only from the desired depth] and these samples are tested in the NB Dept. Environment lab for 34 different things ranging from bacteria to nutrients (including nitrogen and phosporus) to metals (including iron and lead) to alkalinity and pH to other nice-to-know stuff (like arsenic and hardness). In addition, the technician will record water temperature, dissolved oxygen and secchi depth right on the spot. All of this information is entered into a printout that is available on request, along with an explanation of what all the test items mean. This information is entered into the provincial and state water quality databases, for mutual reference. The tests were done most recently in 1998-1999.

Some CLIC'ers are interested in any changes in algae or bacteria that may be occurring in parts of their lake because of household runoff, especially as more and more homes are built along the waterfronts. New development should have much reduced impact due to the zoning on both sides that now requires construction setbacks and the retention of natural shorefront vegetation, however many small contributions add up over time.
In general, the nutrient levels in the CLIC lakes are in the normal range and staying pretty steady over the long haul, and bacteria levels are near or at zero.
For those with an interest, nutrient levels can be monitored using easy test kits for nitrates and phosphates which cost about $60 each from environmental supply houses and are good for 50 tests (refills for another 50 tests cost about $10). Again, these results need to be looked at for trends, not for individual readings. More detailed testing requires access to a specialized laboratory.
The kinds of bacteria that concerns water users (e. coli and fecal coliform) have to be grown [for quantitative measurements] in a special food medium kept in a heated container. This is done at a testing laboratory (the same ones that would test your well water). Organizations that want to do a lot of this purchase a mini-lab to run from a school or similar site.

Maine has a classification system that sets standards for all surface waters. This is based on dissolved oxygen, bacteria and the types and health of the aquatic life in the water. All of the lakes [in the CLIC area] have Maine's top level A rating. All of the streams feeding into them have an A rating EXCEPT Monument Brook, Mud Lake Stream and Forest City Stream which (much to my surprise) currently have a B rating because of their boundary location. Maine is considering reviewing its St. Croix classifications in 2002 -- a good time to fix this!
New Brunswick doesn't have a water classification program yet but has proposed to start using one that mirrors Maine's (good thing since we're talking about the same water sloshing across the boundary). The provincial regulation to implement this is awaiting adoption, likely this year. The Waterway Commission, with the help of CLIC and others and the support of lots of collected water quality data, has proposed to New Brunswick that all of the lakes and their feeder streams get an A rating. The St. Croix area is likely to be the first part of New Brunswick to be formally classified under the new system -- hopefully in 2002.

Anybody with additional questions can reach me at <
staff<AT> > Leigh-Anne Outhouse, Director SCIWC

My long range data is filed at our camp on Spednic Lake so I can't refer to details here. I have been monitoring a site in Spednic Lake since about 1987. My son-in-law started doing this in 1981, I think. Since my brother retired he has been doing some when I have to return home. Four or five years ago, Betty Roberts and Lee Sochasky persuaded us to monitor a site in Sandy Bay, also. We try to do it twice a month, but since we are only summer residents, don't get spring and fall readings. The site we have done for the longest period of time, #5, is halfway between our camp and Indian Island--called the Indian Channel site. The newer site, #6, is in Sandy Bay, near Gull Rock, midway between the head of Todd's Island and the islands off the Maine shore , just above Walker Cove. This is called the Gull Rock site.
The data is very interesting. Ours has remained about the same, with a little fluctuation due to storm events, season, etc. Any dramatic change would certainly raise a red flag of warning.
A side benefit is creating awareness of water quality, I often take visitors or other family members with me when I do the monitoring. In so doing, I have also showed several relatives how to get through "The Narrows" and up into Sandy Bay. I don't have quite as many readings for the Gull Rock site, however, as there are many days when the wind conditions are such that I don't want to attempt it. (Wouldn't be able to get a good look at the secchi disk anyway.) Sandy Bay can be lovely on a calm day, but it can also be very dangerous. My brother is very good at navigating "The Narrows", but he is usually involved in yet another building project, as we have been gradually replacing the old buildings that our grandfather built in the early 1900's. JL

In summary, the word is, as always, water quality on these particular lakes remains unchanged and is good. On the big lakes, there are stations at upper and lower ends, as well as in the middle. The smaller lakes have only one monitoring station, usually at the deepest part and North Lake has two.

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