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Laurelton residents hope park lake remains clean

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For the past month the lake at Springfield Park has been plagued by a mustard-yellow algae bloom that has covered the surface, caused by low water levels and rising temperatures.

And now that the city has cleaned the lake, Springfield Gardens residents are looking to make sure it stays that way.

That was the message about 150 residents delivered Tuesday night to representatives from city and state agencies, including the Departments of Parks, Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection, Economic Development, Health and others at a town hall meeting called by City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (D-Laurelton).

Springfield Park at Springfield Boulevard and 145th Road and its lake had fallen victim to overgrown algae and litter, especially within the last month, Sanders said.

“The lake was dying on us and no one could give us a straight answer as to why,” he said.

Water levels at the lake were also sinking, and residents were concerned the now stagnant lake would become a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus, Sanders said.

But West Nile fears are unwarranted, said Daniel Markowski, from the Department of Health.

“We’ve covered the lake quite extensively,” he said. “There are no mosquito larvae growing in the lake.”

And the representatives of city and state agencies at the meeting were able to provide a combination of reasons for the lake’s problems.

Nearby construction on sewer lines that the city Department of Economic Development was doing for the city Department of Environmental Protection was pulling water from the ground, causing lake levels to drop, said Doug Greeley, deputy commissioner for the DEP. When combined with the recent heat wave and a naturally occurring period of low tides, the water dropped even further, creating an inviting situation for the algae bloom, said John McLaughlin, also from DEP.

“The lake was covered and the channel was a mud hole,” said Bernella Wilcox, who was among the first to draw attention to the problem. “We felt it was dangerous and there was a terrible smell.”

To combat the problems, the DEP skimmed the algae off the surface of the water and pumped in more than 35,000 gallons of water from local hydrants to refill the lake last week, McLaughlin said.

DEP also has more cleaning to do on the creek that feeds the lake, Greeley said.

Although the community is pleased with the results, some worry the algae could return.

“A lot was done in a week,” said Barbara Brown, president of the Springfield/Rosedale Community Action Association. “Is that cosmetic or are we going to have a long term solution?”

The DEP is considering several options as a long-term solution, including filling the lake with saline water and planting flowering wetland plants along the shore, McLaughlin said. Both would change the nutrient content of the water, making it less attractive to both the algae and mosquitoes, he said.

The Parks Department is also looking for help to keep the park the way it is now, said Richard Murphy, borough commissioner for Parks in Queens. Whether by volunteering or reminding a neighbor to use trash cans, he urged the residents to lend a hand.

“What you saw today is what we all strive to do,” he said. “Help us maintain the park so there’s less to do.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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