Georgiaville Pond lowering meant to kill off harmful plants

Georgiaville Pond lowering meant to kill off harmful plants

Though the water level at Georgiaville Pond is slightly lower due to a dry summer, the town will lower it another two feet in preparation for winter. Letting frost hit bottom-dwelling weeds will improve pond health and lessen the chance of toxic algae in the summer. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – Ponds across northern Rhode Island may seem lower than usual due to a low rain season, said Smithfield Town Engineer Kevin Cleary.

In Smithfield, Cleary manages the water level at Georgiaville Pond in conjunction with the Georgiaville Pond Association. He said each year, the association will typically recommend lowering the pond by between 1 and 4 feet.

The town will lower Georgiaville Pond to prepare for the winter beginning in October, but has not started the process yet, Cleary said. He said the cyclical process of filling and lowering the water levels occurs each year.

During the Sept. 26 Georgiaville Pond Association meeting, the association recommended lowering the pond 2 feet. Lowering will begin next week.

Water levels in the pond will be dropped 3 inches each week from now until Oct. 20 to prepare for winter, Cleary said. The work is done slowly to prevent shock to the ecosystem.

Parks and Recreation Director Robert Caine said residents typically prefer to keep the water levels high for aesthetic purposes. He said the lowering by moving dams is not drastic, but is still necessary. He said people who live around the pond prefer to see water in it rather than a mucky, lowered shoreline.

“It’s just not as pretty, I guess,” Caine said.

Despite the unpleasant appearance, Cleary and Caine said it is important to lower the water level for the pond’s health. Cleary said by lowering the water level, the pond bottom is exposed to frost and kills some weeds, also preparing for the wet season in the late winter and early spring.

Excessive weeds at the bottom of ponds can lead to increased temperature in water – something that may cause a rise in the cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. The toxic bacteria caused beach closures throughout the summer.

Georgiaville Pond closed multiple times in July and August this year due to high amounts of blue-green algae after a heatwave.

Cleary said stormwater runoff, animal feces, pesticides, and septic or cesspool overflow are some of the causes for increased blue-green algae.

“We don’t know exactly what the cause was,” he said.

“There is not just a simple answer to a simple question,” he added.

Dams are closed in March and April to allow the ponds to fill up, Cleary said.

A hot summer with minimal rainfall will cause ponds to start to lose water level. September skies are generally clear, leading to lakebeds and groundwater drying up due to summer heat and low rainfall.