Pond Management: The Restoration of Cliff Pond, in Brewster, MA

December 1st, 2016

By Industry Expert Dominic Meringolo, Senior Environmental Engineer, and Territory Leader

cliff-pond-restoration-e.jpgCliff Pond, located in Brewster, Massachusetts, is one of the most popular destinations on Cape Cod for water recreation. It also serves as the highlight attraction of Nickerson State Park, a heavily used property that includes a large campground that is often booked solid each summer. Cliff Pond has a surface area of 207 acres and is the deepest pond on Cape Cod with a maximum water depth of about 88 feet. Unfortunately, in the past few years, the waterbody has experienced frequent blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms. Water quality issues have also resulted in a frequent loss of suitable cold-water habitat for what once was a very healthy and productive trout fishery.

Cliff Pond began having problems with nuisance algal blooms in the 1980s, and in the late ‘90s two dog deaths were attributed to algal toxin consumption. In recent years, following the establishment of state guidelines on Harmful Algae Blooms, advisories have been in place restricting use of the pond for contact recreation for most of the summer. Realizing the deteriorating condition of the pond and its impact on recreational use, the state of Massachusetts through its Department of Conservation and Recreation (MA DCR) contracted with SOLitude Lake Management for a comprehensive study in 2014 and 2015.

The results of the study, which was completed in conjunction with Dr. Ken Wagner of Water Resource Services, identified the internal loading of phosphorus as the primary factor contributing to poor water quality conditions. Phosphorus is a vital nutrient required for algae growth and its concentration in the water dictates the types and amount of algae growing. Elevated concentrations of phosphorus, along with warmer summer temperatures, favor potentially toxic blue-green species of algae.

cliff-pond-restoration-before-and-after-d.jpgBased on the recommendations in the study, treatment with aluminum sulfate (alum) and sodium aluminate was chosen as the most appropriate and cost-effective approach to reduce phosphorus levels in Cliff Pond. Aluminum binds and inactivates phosphorus in the water and sediments, and similar treatments have proven very successful at a number of other lakes on Cape Cod and across the country. After securing funding for the project, MA DCR contracted with Water Resource Services and SOLitude Lake Management to conduct the treatment in the spring of 2016.

Following extensive pretreatment sampling, the treatment process began with mobilization of equipment to the pond in mid-April. SOLitude’s custom-designed treatment vessel was utilized for this project. The vessel consists of 1,500 gallons of onboard product storage, delivery systems, spray boom, flow meters and GPS guidance. Over the course of nine days, approximately 65,000 gallons of aluminum sulfate and sodium aluminate were applied to 74 acres of the pond.

Immediate improvements to the pond included an increase in water clarity from approximately 10 feet just prior to treatment to over 23 feet by the completion of treatment. While this initial level of clarity decreased to some degree, this summer’s average water clarity was nearly three times better than that observed in recent years and preliminary water quality data indicate that both surface and deeper water phosphorus concentrations have been decreased significantly. Follow-up monitoring is planned through at least the summer of 2017, but all observations point to a very successful restoration project and, most importantly, the pond was open for enjoyment all summer long!

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