Somers, N.Y. - For years, the lake just north of the Amawalk Reservoir was the center of outdoor activity in Shenorock.
In the winter, locals strapped on skates and hit the ice. In the warmer months, they socialized on beaches, splashed around in its waters, reeled in sunfish and largemouth bass, or simply enjoyed watching the swans, ducks and muskrats that made their homes there.
But problems were lurking just below the surface.
Nutrient-laden runoff from lawns—and worse, coliform bacteria from failing septic systems—in the densely populated hamlet was getting into the 14-acre lake, speeding up the process known as eutrophication. An overload of nutrients causes plants like algae to bloom explosively and sucks the oxygen out, smothering fish and other aquatic life.
Lake Shenorock was in danger of eventually turning into a stinky swamp.
Now the folks who love it are praising the town for taking action to save their beloved body of water.
In March, Somers launched its stormwater management project with grants from the East of Hudson Water Quality Fund and state Department of Environmental Conservation.
It has now wrapped up the installation of retrofits such as dry swales and hydrodynamic separation structures, aka filters, to treat stormwater from the most impacted areas on the lake’s eastern side. It is also working on ousting invasive species on the shoreline and has carved a pathway about a quarter of the way around it. The lawn in the park area at the lake has been gussied up as well.
The retrofits, Supervisor Rick Morrissey has said, are a “vital” part toward improving drinking water quality because of the lake’s connection to Amawalk Reservoir.
These first steps in bringing Lake Shenorock back to life are very welcome, say residents Stacy Silverstein and Dennis DiSanto, both of whom, along with an informal band of neighbors, have been stalwart stewards of the lake.
Silverstein, who has lived there for nearly a decade, marshals her family on town cleanup days to tackle trash at the lake. On Earth Day, two years ago, she and other volunteers removed “hundreds” of soft drink bottles.
DiSanto, former head of the now disbanded Lake Shenorock Association, grew up in the hamlet.
For many years, he collected water samples to send off to Albany for analysis. Once the town took the reins, grant opportunities grew, he said.
DiSanto called the retrofits “the first real progress we’ve seen. We’re so excited about it!”
“The wheels of progress turn slowly, but at least something’s being done,” he added.
Friends of the lake would like to see it revived to the point where kayaking and other activities can be resumed. Swimming won’t be one of them because of the lake’s status as a drinking water source, but fishing is still allowed.
More could be done, however, such as removing weeds in the lake and installing aeration systems that increase dissolved oxygen in the water, DiSanto said.
The lake, at this point, is very shallow, so maybe dredging would be on this wish list as well, said Adam Smith, the town’s water superintendent.
The town has been taking steps to secure funding so it can sewer lake communities (Shenorock, Lincolndale, and maybe Purdys). Getting rid of potentially leaky septic systems could also help keep the bad stuff out of the lake.
Folks are beginning to take a more active interest in the lake now, says Silverstein.
Silverstein said some have seen posts on Facebook (Shenorock Neighbors) and are “asking if they can plant flowers there.”
“If you have something pretty to take pride in, that spurs on community involvement.”