Fighting weeds and taxes in Thompson

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Tue., Jul. 12, 2011
Some areas of Quaddick Lake are relatively undeveloped. Photos by D. Coffey.
Some areas of Quaddick Lake are relatively undeveloped. Photos by D. Coffey.

During the Thompson Board of Selectmen meeting on July 5, there were more public comments on a proposed tax district for Quaddick Lake residents than anything else. Yet the petition for the tax district hadn't been presented to the town.

At issue is weed control at Quaddick Lake.

A 2007 state grant for $200,000 earmarked for weed control in Quaddick Lake is one or two years from running out, according to Town Planner Kevin Kennedy. Kennedy acknowledged that the remaining funds could be stretched out over three or four years. Chemical applications could be applied in small doses, he said, but to effectively treat the lake, he estimates there are two years, at best.
“Three years ago, the weeds were very strong,” Kennedy said. “There had to be some way to get them under control, and I think the chemicals have done that, to a degree.”

Kennedy is always looking for sources of money to deal with the town's issues, but he thinks getting grants for weed control will be challenging in the future with the economy; thus, the suggestion of a special tax district to help pay for it.

The president of the Quaddick Lake Association, Gary Bessette, who has suggested the special tax district, had not returned phone calls about the issue as of press time.

Kennedy believes it would be hard to make a case that Quaddick Lake has a greater need than other lakes in the state. “Every town – to some degree – has had a lake issue. I think it’s going to be very challenging,” he said. 

Quaddick Lake covers 467 acres. It's a relatively shallow lake with a mean depth of 6 feet. Water flowing into the lake from the surrounding watershed is retained for about 33 days. These factors make it difficult to control the invasive weeds that have troubled the lake for years. Any chemicals that are applied would probably find their way down the Five Mile River.

“People realize that this isn't a sustainable way to address the weeds,” Kennedy said.

Resident Sally White is opposed to the proposed tax district, as well as the continued application of chemicals to control weeds. She said she'd like to see more research into natural weed control, as well as renewed efforts to decrease the source of materials causing the weeds to flourish in the lake. She would also like to know more about the long-term effects of continued chemical applications. “It makes sense to be prudent and think about the consequences and options,” she said.

There has been a lot of discussion about long-term solutions to the problem. There has even been some agreement. Educating residents who live around the lake to minimize their impact on it is crucial. Quaddick Lake Association received a $4,580 grant from The Last Green Valley to develop water quality educational packets to be delivered to households around the lake. Those packets will address fertilizer use, septic system maintenance and a host of other factors that can release nutrients into the lake and foster weed growth.

“A lot of it has to do with people's habits and understanding how to manage a lake properly,” said Kennedy.

In a report produced by CME Associates in 1994, several problem areas were identified. Foremost among them was the issue of septic systems. Dense developments close to the shoreline, small lots, antiquated sewage disposal systems and the sandy and well-drained soils around the lake all suggest that septic waste is contributing nutrients to the lake. A variety of options to address this issue have been discussed. The Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commission have the ability to implement regulations on new construction. Those rules would do nothing to address the existing development along the lake, which many people believe contributes mightily to the weed problem.

The report also identified highway drainage, waterfowl, residential yard chemicals, and Thompson Speedway and golf course run-off as possible contributors to the nutrients entering the lake. There have been no studies to date to substantively identify the contributing factors.

Property owner Judy White spoke against the proposed tax district at the selectmen's meeting. She said that many town residents as well as out-of-state visitors use the lake. Quaddick State Park on the western shore of the lake draws in swimmers and boaters. Why make certain residents pay for a problem that extends beyond the borders of Quaddick Lake neighborhoods and the state of Connecticut itself, she asked.

One thing is certain: controlling the weeds in Quaddick Lake will not be an easy fix for Thompson.

Sally White called it a modernity problem. “Fertilizer is a big problem,” she said. “And years ago there weren't a quarter of the cottages there are today. And those were used infrequently.”

Should a petition be brought before town selectmen to create a new tax district, there would be a town meeting to discuss it. Only town residents affected by the plan would have a vote in the matter.


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