NOTE: The following article summarizes a report on the 2011 septic and stormwater surveys prepared by the consulting firm Forrest Bell Environmental for the Steering Committee of the Lake Wentworth/Crescent Lake Watershed Management Plan. A full copy of the consultants’ report, complete with photos, is available on this web site at: http://lakewentworthfoundation.org/dir-plan/resources
As the summer of 2011 neared its end, a score of dedicated Lake Wentworth Association shore representatives fanned out along the camp roads distributing notices of an upcoming survey that would invite property owners around Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake to share information about their homes – all this in the interest of supporting the development of a management plan for the watershed that surrounds both lakes.
In the weeks that followed the notification, those same shore reps revisited their neighbors, this time accompanied by environmental consultants gathering data about the location and age of residential septic systems. With the owner’s permission, the consultants also evaluated each property for signs of erosion and other damaging effects from runoff into the nearby lake or stream.
Threats to the water quality of the two lakes had been previously identified in a diagnostic study undertaken by NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) in 1999, and the study had recommended that a sanitary survey be conducted in order to better understand the role that septic systems may have in determining the water quality of the lakes.
That understanding is important because a failing septic system can be detrimental to human health, aquatic life, and water resources. Septic system effluent typically stores a thousand times the concentration of phosphorus typically found in lake waters, which means that even a small amount of effluent can have a major impact on nearby waters.
In addition, an outdated or improperly maintained septic system can result in the delivery of disease-causing bacteria and nutrients to nearby water bodies, causing gastro-intestinal illness in swimmers or severe ecosystem dysfunction for fish and wildlife. Untreated septic waste can also contain chemicals and hormones used in pharmaceutical and personal care products, which can have severe impacts on aquatic life.
Now, a dozen years after the diagnostic study, the Lake Wentworth Foundation has partnered with the Town of Wolfeboro, DES, and the University of New Hampshire to develop a management plan for the entire Lake Wentworth/Crescent Lake watershed. When completed sometime in the fall of this year, the plan will have identified current and potential threats to the surface waters that feed and make up the two lakes. The hope is that, in subsequent years, funding will be found to begin chipping away at the sources of the nutrients that are slowly undermining the health of the lakes and their tributaries.