“Lake George is, without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw ... its water is as limpid as crystal.”
So wrote Thomas Jefferson to his daughter in 1791.
But in the modern age — with its isolation compromised by modern transportation, flourishing tourism and development along it shores — Lake George’s purity has come under assault.
In the 1980s, lake scientists at the Darrin Freshwater Institute in Bolton Landing issued warnings that human activities in and around the lake were threatening the quality of the water — which not only provides recreation for residents and visitors, sustenance for wildlife, but drinking water for thousands of local citizens.
The lakewater was being polluted by stormwater runoff and seepage from septic systems in the basin, and it was threatened by non-native plants and creatures that were beginning to take hold.
In response, regulations over septic systems were toughened, and recently, a law banning the use of phosphorus fertilizers was enacted. Action was taken to control the spread of Eurasian Milfoil, a fast-spreading foreign lakeweed that threatened recreation in shallow bays of the lake.
Then in 2010, a researcher for the Fresh Water Institute discovered Asian clams in the lake, prompting new concern over the spread of invasive species, which experts say threaten the health of the local tourism-based economy, the purity of local drinking water, and the future of the lake itself.
Asian clams, proliferating in western U.S. waterways including Lake Tahoe, multiply at an exponential rate and cause huge algae blooms, threaten traditional recreational activities like swimming and fishing, as well as usurping the food supplies that existing aquatic wildlife depend on.
In response to the threat, environmentalists formed an Asian clam task force, and about 900 benthic-barrier mats were set out in several shallow areas of Lake George to smother the invasives, with the belief the species could be eradicated. The Lake George Association and the Fund for Lake George were leaders in tackling this new threat.
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