Residents oppose chemical treatment for invasive species at Candlewood Lake
BROOKFIELD — Community members expressed a strong preference Sunday for natural ways to combat invasive species in Candlewood Lake.
Of the some 120 attendees at Candlewood Lake Authority’s fourth annual “State of Our Lake” event, no one spoke in favor of New Fairfield’s proposal to use chemicals to eliminate Eurasian watermilfoil and blue-green algae that have plagued the lake for years.
New Fairfield’s Carolyn Rowan encouraged the audience to get involved in her new group, Candlewood Voices, which opposes the town’s proposal to use herbicides and algaecides in Town Park Cove and Shelter Harbor Cove.
“We will not stop,” she said. “We will not go away, and our voices are growing stronger.”
Scott Randall, an opponent of the proposal, started a petition drive that has so far garnered more than 2,600 signatures. He said he is concerned about studies suggesting the chemicals could cause Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and other health problems.
“I don’t want kids swimming in that environment,” he said.
Elected officials from other towns represented on the Candlewood Lake Authority, such as Brookfield and New Milford, spoke out against the proposal. They urged all five lakefront towns, including Danbury, Sherman, and New Fairfield, to work together.
New Fairfield set aside $52,000 for the treatment in January.
Delegates from New Fairfield did not attend the event, although Chairman Phyllis Schaer said they were invited.
New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman has said the herbicide has been used in the state’s other lakes and only her town’s shorelines would be affected.
“The town of New Fairfield is trying to see if it can find an effective solution for these issues at the lake,” she said in January. “New Fairfield does have the biggest part of the lake.”
Several attendees said they felt town officials were not listening to their concerns and called for residents to attend meetings and write letters to the editor to express their disapproval of the plan, which must be approved by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“We need to fight for this lake,” New Fairfield’s John McCartney said. “We need to do what we can to stop it and prevent it in the future.”
Instead of using chemicals, authority members said, they support the ongoing program that puts sterile grass carp into the lake to eat the milfoil.
In 2015, the authority put about 3,800 carp into the lake and plans to add another 4,450 fish.
The authority expects to see a decrease in milfoil in years to come, based on the success of a long-running program at Ball Pond in New Fairfield.
Cynthia Stevens, chairwoman of the Ball Pond Advisory Committee, said the milfoil problem in the pond 20 years ago was comparable to the issue in Candlewood Lake today. But within five years after the introduction of the carp program, Stevens said, residents began to see positive results.
“I’m very pleased we chose an organic approach,” Stevens said. “I don’t have any regrets.”