Foul odor at Belcher's Creek is cause for concern

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:56

    WEST MILFORD — The source of what is neutrally being described as "a foul odor" close to Belcher's Creek still remains a mystery. Professional consultants had been called in to investigate a separate matter of which monitoring the creek was a small part. It was during this work that the stench coming from a pipe underneath the bridge on Greenwood Lake Turnpike was discovered. Princeton Hydro was hired by West Milford Township to conduct a lake study and develop a Stormwater Implementation Plan for Greenwood Lake. Dr. Fred Lubnow led the study for Princeton Hydro and said this week "Since the project focuses on phosphorus, bacterial samples were not collected. Samples were collected for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Princeton Hydro is waiting for the water quality report from the state certified laboratory." Fears that sewage may be leaking into Belcher's Creek and flowing on to Greenwood Lake are mostly dismissed by Lubnow but not completely discounted. "We have not been asked to investigate the source of the potential pollutant load. Any comment about leaking sewerage is a hypothesis on what the source of the problem might be... During our sampling event, an unpleasant odor was detected at the pipe and this is why the samples were collected." Lubnow continued, "The overall cause of the elevated bacterial, nutrient and sediment loads entering Belcher's Creek can originate from a variety of sources including stormwater, septic leachate, possible on-site wastewater connections, or wildlife (i.e. geese). Sampling or analyzing bacteria is out of the scope of this project." The township has reacted to the finding and has done some searching to try and locate the source. Township Administrator Rich Kunze said of the 18 inch diameter pipe, "It is actually one of several under the bridge and appears to be a storm sewer pipe, probably owned by the county as part of the drainage system in the area. We are confirming this information with the county." Kunze also said, "The Township Health Department is also looking into where the effluent may be originating and has begun performing dye tests at local businesses. Another part of our investigation will be to have the effluent sampled for fecal coliform, which will help us determine if the runoff is sewage or ‘gray' water." According to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's web site it says that fecal coliform usually comes from human waste, animal waste, agricultural fertilizers and wildlife. It also advises that sewage treatment facilities are potential sources of fecal coliform because of equipment failure or operational problems that can result in the discharge of untreated sewage. Greenwood Lake Commission Cochair Steve DeFeo was reluctant to be concerned about the finding as yet saying only, "We are awaiting the results." Lubnow said the focus of his work in Belcher's Creek was on a plan to reduce the phosphorus loads entering the lake. Phosphorus is the primary nutrient limiting algal and aquatic plant growth in Greenwood Lake. Elevated phosphorus loads result in algal blooms and nuisance densities of aquatic plants. Part of Lubnow's project includes the installation of stormwater retrofits to initiate some of the recommended improvements.