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By Erin Smith

The water at White Lake is undergoing an alum treatment to try to clarify the water and to lower the presence of algae in the water. The treatments are expected to continue through May 15th, according to a letter sent to the town’s residents in April.

Bridget Munger, with the Department of Environmental Quality, said the town of White Lake has obtained all of the necessary permits from State officials to perform the alum treatment process. Munger said the alum compound attaches to the algae and carries it to the bottom of the water. She added the goal of town officials is to get the algae under control and to clear up the discoloration of the water.

The town contracted with HAB Aquatic Solutions to perform the alum treatments. The alum is applied by a modified barge which uses booms extended out from the boat to apply the compound. It can apply as much as 9,000 gallons of the compound per session.

When dead fish began washing up along White Lake’s shoreline during the weekend, residents questioned the cause for the fish kill.

White Lake Mayor Goldston Womble attributed the weekend fish kill to the oxygen levels in the water and not the alum treatment.

Munger said state officials first learned of the fish kill on Friday. She said a team from the Division of Water Quality was at White Lake on Monday performing field testing on water samples which included the dissolved oxygen levels. Munger said what the team had found as of Monday afternoon is the ph levels and oxygen levels were slightly elevated for the lake. Munger said this means the ph levels and oxygen levels were higher than one would expect to see for a lake of this size.

The team from the Division of Water Quality was also collecting water samples and dead fish to bring back to the lab in Raleigh for further testing, added Munger.

“Apparently there is a range of sizes and species of fish (involved in the fish kill),” said Munger.

As of Monday afternoon, Munger said State officials are still not certain as to why the fish kill ocurred.

The town has spent several years performing studies and testing the waters of the lake to try to determine the source of the discoloration and develop a plan to correct the discoloration issue.

The alum treatments will cost the town $522,352. The town is also preparing to have a study done of the Hydrologic Flows and Nutrient Inputs into White Lake with the Bald Head Island Conservancy at a cost of $78,135.82.

The Bald Head Island Conservancy study hopes to pinpoint the source or sources of nutrients entering the lake so a plan can be developed to address those issues as well.

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Dead fish halt State alum application project at White Lake