Filthy waters empty into Greenwood Lake

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    WEST MILFORD-One of the feeders to the largest body of water in northern New Jersey, Greenwood Lake, some 9.6 miles long is highly contaminated and, according to at least one township council member, has been contaminating the lake for some 25 years, while authorities ignored the problem. Water testing in Belcher's Creek confirms extremely high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, or raw sewage, as the source of contamination. Councilman Joseph Elcavage announced the results at the workshop session of June 10. The creek runs from Pine Cliff Lake dam to Greenwood Lake. Waters from Pinecliff Lake Dam empty into Belcher's Creek. The waterway runs behind a number of small stores and businesses, and the Shop Rite shopping center along Union Valley Road. Belcher's Creek eventually feeds directly into Greenwood Lake. The highest concentration of the bacteria, 26 times higher than the state allowed standard, was found at the Gweneth Road outfall pipe. The Madelyn Avenue outfall pipe tested 19.5 times higher than the state allows; and Tintle Road, 17.5 times higher, according to Elcavage. The standard for testing is governed by the ordinance provided for bathing beaches. Elcavage quoted the ordinance to The Messenger, during a phone conversation on Sunday: "The estimated fecal coliform concentration shall not exceed 200 fecal coliform per 100 milliliters for bathing beaches." While there are no beaches in the polluted area, people have been known to swim in the water. In addition, Greenwood Lake is a focal point of summer recreation, with swimming and boating, and a main location for year-round fishing. On May 11, the Health Department tested 10 sites, suspected of contamination, along Belcher's Creek. Seven of the 10 exceeded the state standards. The dams at West Milford Lake and Pinecliff Lake, and the Pine Street outfall pipe tested under 200. Wednesday, Fred Mumford, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, Water Enforcement Unit said it will move to obtain the Belcher's Creek test results and verify them with additional tests. According to Elcavage, the Health Department did not test for phosphates or nitrates. "If fecal coliform is present, the assumption is other contaminating factors are also present," he said. Asked what the cause of the pollution was, Elcavage said the problem has been on going for the past 25 years or so. Until now, it has been ignored. He said some businesses in the area that were having septic problems are being corrected. He knew the Greenwood Lake Townhouses had recently corrected a problem with their septics. All apparently contribute to the severe pollution levels. The official bacteria levels for the seven outfall pipes testing the highest are; Gweneth Road, 5200; Madelyn Avenue, 3900; Tintle Road, 3500; Lambert Street, 2700; John Street 2500, Louis Avenue, 1300; and Spring Street, 800 fecal coliform per 100 milliliters. "Clearly there is now more of a reason to move quickly with the ... Army Corps of Engineers Non-Point Source Pollution Study, as quickly as possible," said Councilman Paul Bailey. This is exactly the kind of information that will lead to a cleaner Greenwood Lake. At press time The Messenger was unable to learn if Greenwood Lake has been tested to determine if it is polluted as West Milford enters the summer season with its annual influx of vacationers seeking to use the lake for swimming, boating, fishing, waterskiing and other recreational activities. However, a persistent weed-growth problem is known to exist on the huge lake. Heavy weed and algae growth can be a pollution symptom. Numerous telephone calls this week to the West Milford Health Officer Kenneth Hawskwell, were unreturned.