White Lake begins treatment of lake water

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

WHITE LAKE — White Lake leaders are hoping an effort underway will combat the years-long alteration of the water quality at the resort lake.

Residents recently received letters requesting they refrain from boating on the lake the first weekend in May, as the town would begin a treatment to lower the pH level of the lake. Being completed by a Florida company, the treatment cost the town more than $500,000 and is expected to begin working immediately. Residents have stated leaders are hoping to have the clarity restored by the upcoming White Lake Water Festival.

The treatment involves aluminum sulfate, more commonly called alum, sold in the spice section of most grocery stores. To date, more than 20,000 gallons have been discharged into the lake.

“Alum is widely used in lakes and the drinking/wastewater treatment industry due to its known safety. In fact, an important consideration in selecting an alum application as the preferred restoration technique for White Lake was its long record of safe use,” reads a website dedicated to the effort. “The alum applied is the same alum used as a clarifier in drinking water treatment plants and each truckload of alum is tested to ensure its purity and that it meets rigorous drinking water standards. The use of alum is well-suited for lakes such as White Lake and HAB carefully monitors and documents the safe lake conditions during all their application projects.”

According to the letter sent to town residents, the treatment was approved by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The effort is an attempt to combat years of declining clarity in the lake, but is not, according to one source, intended to be a long-term solution, as the treatment only addresses the pH, not the underlying cause of the spike in pH over the last five to 10 years. The town is in talks with the Bald Head Island Conservancy to study the inflows, at a price tag of more than $78,000.

The issue first came to light in 2013, when residents began noticing decreasing clarity. A study was commissioned by the N.C. Division of Environmental Quality, which showed increasing levels of pH, as well as blue-green algae that had previously not been problematic. The algae feed primarily on phosphorus, a substance that also increases pH. The study was presented in 2015 to a quorum of town officials.

Reports of skin rashes beset the town in 2016 and 2017, with visitors claiming swimming in the lake was the culprit. Town officials have maintained the lake is safe for swimming.

The aquatic plant hydrilla has also been found to be present in the lake.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal