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Blackmans Lake health not ideal, findings show

Dan Armstrong file photo

Snohomish Science club member Steven Osborne tests the water of Blackmans Lake for turbidity as part of the club’s latest sample collection on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 2. He is using the Jackson Turbidity unit test to see how many solids are floating in the water.

SNOHOMISH — After months of learning about water quality and analyzing samples, the Junior Sportsmen of Snohomish High School took the stage last week to reveal Blackmans Lake test results.
By all accounts the young sportsmen aced their project, but the lake didn’t fare as well.
The students reported the lakewater contained an average of 566 colonies of fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters of water based on December tests.
Washington State standards recommend the level be no higher than 100 colonies per 100 milliliters for swimming or 200 colonies per 100 milliliters for wading.
During one test in the middle of winter, “it was 1,100 (colonies) which is catastrophically not good whatsoever. Something needs to change at Hill Park,” junior sportsman Errol Hooker said.
The sportsmen conducted three rounds of tests overall; one in November, December and January. In each round, the science students, who are certified by Global Water Watch, tested the lake three times at each of three spots.
The students, under the tutelage of instructor Louis Boggeri, will continue monthly testing to answer the question of residents who wondered how high the fecal coliform concentration might rise in warmer summer months.
Physical and chemical quality measures, including temperature and pH levels, were within normal limits according to the students and Eric Adman, president of the Sno-King Watershed Council, who also presented.
While Snohomish County does not regularly test the lake for fecal coliform, it does conduct annual physical and chemical water tests.  
Its findings up to 2016 include downgrades in water quality and upticks in environmental conditions prone to fostering algae.
“Overall, between 1992 and 2016 there has been a statistically significant (change) towards declining water quality at Blackmans Lake,” the report says in discussing water clarity. The same report also documents “a statistically significant increase in phosphorus in the upper waters.” and that high phosphorus “can lead to increased algae growth.”
The lake has been closed to swimmers at times in past years, including last August, because of potentially toxic blue-green algae.
The county document labels the lake as in overall “fair condition” and recommends taking action to prevent “any future negative impacts,” including restoring native vegetation along the shoreline to filter out pollution and discourage waterfowl.
Not everyone agrees that the water quality is a health concern.
Longtime resident Gordy Hallgren said he had swum the lake in only a speedo for 42 years without problems and that the quality had actually improved in recent years. “I’m not saying the lake hasn’t got trouble, it probably does,” he added. Hallgren would like to see a sheep dog used to permanently scare off the waterfowl that leave
droppings along the shoreline.
The meeting was hosted by the recently formed Friends of Blackmans Lake group. The lake needs help, according to member Bob Roush, who has spearheaded lake cleanup and awareness efforts. Roush has several projects in mind, including scaring away the prolific waterfowl and removing invasive lily pads. Friends of Blackmans Lake organizers Dave Spencer and Kay Ditzenberger said the organization’s first aim is to gather additional data.
But even that action faced a funding challenge: the testing equipment students need costs approximately $933.
Members of the Tillicum Kiwanis and Snohomish Sportsmen announced to loud applause that they would donate the money. Hallgren offered to match funds toward the testing as well.
“People love what they know, and protect what they love,” Adman said, quoting an old adage. The community will have the opportunity to know the familiar recreation spot even better as new test results and opportunities to get involved are coming soon say organizers.



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