MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The Carmel Town Board is moving forward with plans to legislate the use of deicing devices on Lake Mahopac. Commonly known as bubblers, or aerators, the devices are used to keep private dock areas free of ice.
The bubblers are essentially pumps that keep water moving to prevent it from freezing. Some residents have complained the devices have grown larger over the years, weakening the ice well beyond their intended purpose and creating hazardous conditions.
The issue first came to the attention of Mahopac News in January 2015 after several incidences of people falling through the ice had been reported. No one was seriously injured.
At that time, one resident, Fred Reger, who owns a home on the lake, said he became so concerned about the bubblers that he started an online petition at MoveOn.org to compel the Town Board to take action.
“I have been on the ice my whole life on various lakes and we fish this lake in the winter,” Reger told Mahopac News. “Every year we talk about [the bubbler issue]. It’s been bad the past five years. Every year you see a couple more [bubblers] pop up.
“The devices are different now,” he continued. “A long time ago, they were like little fish tank pumps and they kept the ice away from the docks for a couple of feet. Now they get these big sump pumps from Home Depot and you get open water about 200 to 300 feet around the dock.”
Supervisor Ken Schmitt said that last year’s mild winter made bubblers less of an issue, but the Town Board wants to look into the issue again and get feedback from the public before drafting any legislation designed to regulate the size and use of bubblers.
At last week’s Town Board meeting, Councilman John Lupinacci said he wants residents to come out to the next few board meetings and make suggestions as to how the town should proceed.
“These aerators weaken the ice and it becomes a safety issue,” he said. “For our next work session we should bring in residents for the pros and cons and get feedback. I am just bringing it to the forefront to start the discussion.”
Lupinacci said the town has to walk the fine line between keeping the lake safe while helping people protect their decks and boat houses.
“We have to do a little bit more homework,” he said. “I just want to get a flavor of what the people around the lake would like. I do believe something has to be done to mitigate the ice’s destruction but still protect the docks. There has to be a balance.”
“Bubblers’ intended use is great, but some of these systems have become so large,” he said. “The intended use was to keep the ice from forming around the docks and the boat house, but because of these huge systems it is actually opening up the water much further out into the lake and that is where the hazard comes in.”
Rick and Lori Betancourt, who belong to the Mahopac Woods Association, told Mahopac News last year that they wouldn’t allow their two sons to go onto the frozen lake because the ice got too soft due to the bubblers.
“They are making our access point unsafe,” Betancourt said of the bubblers. “Years ago people used to drive their cars and bring plows out onto the lake. Now we cannot even let the kids out there on the ice.”
Schmitt said the Town Board will do its best to find a way to mitigate the situation once it has gathered enough information.
“Somethings needs to be done,” he said. “I encourage the public—people who live around the lake and those who use it for winter activities—to come to the meetings. We want to hear from both sides so we can formulate our plan. It will be on our agenda, which is on the website, when we will have the discussions and the public is invited. Please attend the meetings. It is the best way to get information from you and for you to understand where we are coming from.”