Homeowners battle lake weeds

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  • Photo from westmilfordindependent.com In addition to being a Greenwood Lake Commission trustee, Zarrillo is the vice chairman of the Highlands Economic Development and Tourism Corporation (HEAT).

Lakefront homeowner Paul Zarrillo is looking forward to being able to use Greenwood Lake this summer. It hasn’t always been that way, but thanks to this 25-year West Milford resident and his campaign to rid the lake of choking weeds, many homeowners are chipping in and hoping to be able to enjoy the lake.

“A few neighbors and I were sitting around and compaining about the weeds,” said Zarrillo. “They were saying what can we do about this.”

Here’s what they can - and will - do: they can come up with the money and hire a company to apply herbicides to kill the weeds.

Zarrillo knows a thing or two about the lake. He is a longtime member of the Greenwood Lake Commission, a bi-state commission set up to look after the health of the lake, a vital water supplier to much of the state of New Jersey and a source of recreations for many.

But the commission is unfunded by both New Jersey and New York, something that irks Zarrillo. And while the state won’t give them money for it, private homeowners can indeed apply herbicides to the part of the lake that fronts their own property. Zarrillo and his neighbors formed an association. They got the word out and have over 30 people signed on to participate.

“We got homeowners from Rockey Point Road in Hewitt, from the mouth of Belcher Creek to Moosehead Marina,” said Zarrillo.

That thrills him. He and his neighbors thought they might be able to get a couple more to jump on board. He wrote a letter and sent it out and the positive responses have been coming in.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” he said.

Like cutting grass

The Greenwood Lake Commission has been harvesting the weeds in Greenwood Lake for years. It’s the least intrusive way to help clean up the lake, whose weeds grow so high they flop out of the water and onto boats, according to Zarrillo.

"It's like cutting the grass” he said. And they keep coming back with a vengeance. “This year they were very severe. It was as bad as I've ever seen it.”

Zarrillo said the best thing the commission could do would be to dredge the lake. But that’s “enormously expensive” to do.

Applying the herbicide, he said, is their best option for the money. It’s done at Lake Hopatcong and many other lakes, Zarrillo said. They will be using an herbicide called “Reward.” Zarrillo said it is a very safe herbicide. You can swim just a few days after it is used.

This is being done privately. Each homeowner is chipping in for their share of the application. Zarrillo said “Reward” is a pretty inexpensive herbicide, costing about $250 to be applied to an acre of lake. Homeowners can go the width of their property clear across the lake, if they wish.

They will have to reapply this herbicide yearly; a stronger herbicide would cost upwards of $600 an acre but would last longer. Many homeowners use the lake water to irrigate their lawns. If they’d gone with a stronger herbicide, they wouldn’t be able to use the water for six weeks, he said. With Reward, it’s just a few days.

“Reward is the least intrusive herbicide,” he said. “But we must do it every year.”

They've hired Allied Bological from Hackettstown to do the work. Their target date is early to mid-May.

The lake’s value

West Milford is home to many lakes but Greenwood Lake is the largest. And while many businesses are dependent on it here and in Greenwood Lake, N.Y., the lake also supplies over three million people and thousands of businesses in New Jersey with drinking water.

Zarrillo has suggested that the township take a percentage of the tax money collected from lakefront homeowners and use that money to maintain the lake. Currently, the township gives $10,000 to the Greenwood Lake Commissiion along with in-kind services for their weed harvesting efforts.

“We pay a lot of taxes to live on the lake,” said Zarrillo. “I’ve suggested they ought to take a percentage or a flat amount and give it to the commission to do herbicides. But that hasn’t happened.”

How do you feel about these homeowners applying herbicide to the lake? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us.

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