2020 Taylor Pond Water Quality Report

by Woody Trask

An October morning on Taylor Pond

This report summarizes the findings of the 2020 water quality monitoring program for Taylor Pond in Auburn, Maine (MIDAS ID#3750). Clarity readings and samplings were conducted monthly from June through September by Woody Trask with additional clarity readings taken May through September by Michael Heskanen.

Since 2004, Taylor Pond Association has been collecting its own water samples and performing most tests. Phosphorus analyses are conducted by the DHHS Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory.

Result summary: Results were quite consistent with readings obtained for the past several years with one notable exception. A new maximum clarity reading of 7.0 meters obtained on May 30 exceeded the previous high by 0.75 meters (about 2.5 feet). The average clarity was slightly higher than last year mostly likely due to a dry summer with less runoff going into the pond.

The average 5 meter core sample phosphorus reading was up slightly from last year but was consistent with the historical average. The bottom (12 meter) phosphorus reading by contrast was much lower than last year and was well below the historical average.

Water coloration was the same as last year and close to the historic average. 

Readings for pH and alkalinity were unchanged from past years. Conductivity was slightly higher.

The average surface temperature taken at 1 meter depth was 23.3°C (73.9°F), 0.3°C (0.5°F) lower than last year and 0.4°C (0.72°F) higher than the average for the past 10 years.

 “Ice in” occurred on the 4th of December 2019 (1 day earlier than 2018) and the “ice out” date was April 2nd (3 weeks earlier  than 2019). The historical average for ice out is April 14. 

The results of this year’s monitoring are given below and in a separate DO/Temperature report.

Parameter2020Mean for Taylor Pond since 1975Historical Mean for all Maine Lakes
Color21.2521.0428
pH7.17.016.82
Alkalinity2017.111.9
Conductance, µS/cm10591.246
Total Phosphorous 5m core sample, µg/L11.0vs. 10.25 in 201910.2112
Total Phosphorousbottom grab, µg/L17.5vs. 15.25 in 201924.58(not published)
Secchi depth (meters) minimum4.2vs. 3.8 in 20191.7 (minimum ever recorded)0.5(0.9 in 2012) 
Secchi depth mean (m)5.35vs. 5.0 in 20194.704.81(5.2 in 2012)
Secchi depth max (m)7.0vs. 6.2 in 20197.0 (a new record high)15.5 (13.4 in 2012)
Trophic State (by Secchi disk)35.849.2045
Trophic State (by core Total Phosphorus)38.742.75
(not published)

Color:

Organic material that remains from dead plants and animals provides most of the water color.  Lakes drained by areas with more coniferous forests tend to be brown in color due to the slow degradation of the leaves of these trees.  Taylor Pond had a color measured at 21.25 in 2020, which is slightly higher than last year and lower than the mean for all Maine lakes of 28.  When the color is greater than 25 a lake is considered “colored” and the transparency is reduced.   

PH:

A measure of the acid-base status of the pond.  Taylor Pond had a pH of 7.1 in 2020 which is slightly higher than the mean of 6.82 for all Maine Lakes.  Acid rain caused by industrial pollutants can cause the pH in lakes to drop below 6.  This drop in pH kills off the healthy zooplankton (microscopic animals) leading to death of fish and overgrowth of algae.   The pH of Taylor Pond has been very stable over the years.

Alkalinity:

A measure of the capacity of the water to buffer against a change in the pH.  Taylor Pond’s alkalinity in 2020 was 20 (the same as last year) compared to a mean for all Maine lakes of 11.9.  This indicates that our pond is unlikely to have a problem with acidity.  The level of alkalinity in Taylor Pond has remained constant and is not of concern.

Conductance:

Conductance indirectly measures the relative number of dissolved ions in the water — the higher the concentration of ions the greater the conductance. Conductance is used as a rough estimate of the amount of pollutants which usually are present as ions.  Although conductance is easy to measure it is not considered highly reliable.  Taylor Pond’s conductance for 2020 was 105 compared to a historical mean of 91.2 and a mean of 46 for all Maine lakes. 

Total Phosphorous:

A phosphorus analysis provides the most reliable measure of the capacity of Taylor Pond to have an algal bloom.  Algae in Maine waters tend to be limited by the phosphorous content of the water.  If you provide enough phosphorous algae grows rapidly.  Algae cause depletion of oxygen in the water which kills animal life, colors the water green and when it dies creates unpleasant odors.  Taylor Pond’s phosphorous was done using a 5 meter core and bottom grab sampling technique.  Taylor Pond’s core sample phosphorous readings this year averaged 11.0 µg/L which is comparable to the historical mean of 10.21 and lower than the 12 reported for all Maine lakes.  In 2020 there were no 5 meter core results close to the 15 µg/L level that can initiate algal blooms.  Lakes are categorized as oligotrophic (low level of biologic productivity), mesotrophic (intermediate) or eutrophic (high biologic productivity) based on how much phosphorous they contain.  A lake with a phosphorous of less than 10 is considered oligotrophic, between 10 and 30 is considered mesotrophic and over 30 is considered eutrophic.

The bottom grab sample average of 17.5 µg/L was higher than last year’s average and lower than the historical average.

Secchi Disk:

Secchi disk readings provide the easiest method for measuring the clarity of the water.  Algae, zooplankton (microscopic animals), natural water color and suspended soil all reduce the transparency of the water.  Algae cause most of the change in transparency in Taylor Pond, but pine pollen at times is also a major contributor.  The mean transparency for 2020 was 5.35 meters, 3.5 m. higher than last year due primarily to a highest reading ever of 7.0 meters taken at the end of May. The mean for 2020 was higher than the historic average for Taylor Pond of 4.70 and higher than the historical average for all Maine lakes.

Trophic State:

This is a measure of the biologic productivity of the pond — the higher the number, the more biologically productive the lake and typically the poorer the water quality.  The scale ranges from zero to over 100.  Ponds in the range between 40 and 50 are considered mesotrophic (moderately productive).  Values greater than 50 are associated with eutrophy (high productivity) and values less than 40 are associated with oligotrophy (low productivity).  Taylor Pond measured at 35.8 by Secchi Disk readings and 38.7 by phosphorous readings (considered the most accurate).  Taylor Pond’s Trophic State as measured by the Secchi disk is lower than the state average of 45.

Dissolved Oxygen and Temperature Profiles:

The amount of dissolved oxygen is measured at the surface and at one meter depth intervals monthly throughout the summer.  Generally down to a depth of 5 meters the oxygen level remains at a high enough level to sustain all animals.  Below 5 meters the oxygen levels early in the summer are high, but as the summer progresses the oxygen levels drop to levels (below 5 ppm) unable to sustain fish and other aquatic animals. Warm water fish (such as Sunfish, Perch, Pickerel and Bass) have no difficulty in Taylor Pond because they stay near the surface where the water is well oxygenated.  Cold water fish (such as Trout and Salmon) need the deeper colder water, below 20 degrees Celsius, to thrive. By July or August, this colder, deeper water no longer contains enough oxygen for fish.  In addition to the difficulty for fish, oxygen depletion near the bottom of the pond tends to release phosphorous into the water.  This is demonstrated by the higher phosphorous levels found in the bottom grab samples by the middle of the summer. The oxygen depletion found below 4-8 meters is similar to what we have found in the past and continues to reflect the fragile state of Taylor Pond. The DO and Temperature profiles for 2020 are on a separate chart (attached).

Conclusions:

The conclusions remain essentially unchanged from last year. The water quality of Taylor Pond is considered to be average compared to other Maine lakes.  The potential for an algal bloom continues to be low to moderate, with the average Phosphorus of 11.0 µg/L for 2020 being in line with the historical average.  Taylor Pond remains one of the 181 Maine lakes on the Maine Department of Environmental Protections Nonpoint Source Priority Watershed list.  This list contains those lakes considered to be threatened or impaired by nonpoint source pollution from land use activities on the surrounding watershed.  In addition the Stormwater Management Law considers Taylor Pond to be a lake “most at risk”.  

Taylor Pond fails to meet standards for the highest water quality due to the depletion of oxygen found at depths below 5 meters during the summer (see DO/Temp chart).  In addition, phosphorous levels remain just below the threshold of 15 which could trigger an algal bloom.  Monitoring of Taylor Pond has been conducted regularly since 1975.  During this time there has been no consistent trend in the parameters measured.  Since 2004, the years Taylor Pond has been monitored by volunteers, there have been no appreciable algae blooms.   

Because of the shallow depth of the pond (mean depth 17 feet) and low flushing rate (1.34 flushes per year, the number of times the water, on average, empties from the pond) Taylor Pond will likely always remain vulnerable to phosphorous loading and therefore algal blooms.  Because of oxygen depletion of deep water during the summer, the pond will likely never sustain a cold water fishery.  Finally, each new structure or expansion of an existing structure, whether a home, garage, driveway, road, lawn or beach, potentially increases the phosphorous loading of the pond.  

Taylor Pond continues to have many attractive qualities.  The shallow depth means that it quickly warms in the summer to provide excellent swimming close to the towns of Auburn and Lewiston.  It freezes quickly in the winter to provide skating, skiing and ice fishing during the winter.   It has an abundant bass, pickerel, and recently pike populations that thrive in its warm waters and attract people who enjoy fishing.  The Department of Marine Resources considers the pond to be prime spawning habitat for alewives and trucks adult fish above the dams on the Androscoggin River into Taylor Pond.  It has a naturally high level of biologic productivity that sustains an abundant wildlife population for all to enjoy.  It remains a place that never ceases to astound us with its beauty.  

METHODOLOGY:

Samples are collected at the deepest point in the pond.  This point has been determined previously and the historic location has been noted on maps available to the samplers along with GPS coordinates.  This spot is reached by boat and verified each time by visual triangulation or GPS reading.  In addition to visual triangulation an ultrasound depth meter is used before collecting core and grab samples.  Grab samples are taken using a Van Dorn Water Sampler.  Core samples are taken with a core sampler  home-manufactured from a 50 foot flexible PVC tube.   The method for grab samples at a specified depth and core samples are done according to the protocol of the Maine Bureau of Land and Water Quality, Division of Environmental Assessment.

COLOR:  Performed on core samples using a Hach color wheel (CO 20-100) and units are in Standard Platinum Units (SPU).

PH: Performed on core samples using a Hach Bromothymol Blue test kit for pH.

CONDUCTANCE:  Performed on core samples using a HM Digital, Inc. Model COM-100 water quality tester for EC/TDS/Temp. Conductivity is measured in uS/cm.

ALKALINITY:  Performed on core samples using a titration method with a Hach color wheel measured in milligram per liter.  

PHOSPHOROUS:  Performed on core samples and bottom grab samples.  Samples are collected in the field, refrigerated and sent to the DHHS lab by mail. Measurements are in parts per billion (ppb). The results are the average of four samples taken once a month from June to September.

SECCHI DISK:  Performed using the method taught by the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program. Only certified users performed this task. Measurements of depth are in meters.

DISSOLVED OXYGEN:  Performed in the field using a YSI 550A DO meter with 50 foot probe which measures temperature and dissolved oxygen from the surface to maximum depth.  The sampler and meter is yearly certified by the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program as to method and accuracy. Measurements of dissolved oxygen are in milligrams per liter (mg/l). Water temperature is recorded at each depth tested.

TROPHIC STATE:  Carlson’s Trophic State Index (TSI) is used in these calculations.  For Secchi disk depth TSI = 60 – 14.41 x (Natural Log of Secchi disk depth in meters). For total phosphorus TSI = 14.42 x (Natural Log of total phosphorous) + 4.15.  

Woody Trask

10/23/2020

SHORELINE IMPROVEMENT GRANTS SUPPORT TAYLOR POND WATER QUALITY

It’s Summer…finally!  Whether your idea of summer on Taylor Pond includes boating, floating, paddling, fishing, sailing, or simply relaxing in a deck chair on solid ground, you count on its clean water and accessible shoreline to get the most out of every, precious summer day.  We all do.  Of all the issues on TPA agendas over the years, none is more consistent and more important than water quality.  It is no accident that our water is clear; it’s thanks to the stewardship of us all.

One of the best ways to maintain water quality is from the shore.  TPA offers help to property owners who want to make their shoreline more lake friendly.  Free property evaluations and matching grants up to $500 are available to members. Participation is completely voluntary. Property owners can opt out at any time (i.e. they are not required to implement any improvement suggestions and the property evaluation is purely educational, not regulatory). 

Evaluations do advise property owners on Maine’s shoreland zoning law and include customized recommendations for property improvements that will keep the pond healthy such as: 

  • Preventing rain runoff  from directly entering the pond
  • Planting a buffer along the shore 
  • Leaving grass at least three inches long when cutting
  • Avoiding pesticides and fertilizers and
  • Reducing lawn sizes

Homeowners (or road associations) who do want to apply for a matching grant (up to $500) will follow these steps: 

  1. An initial, free LakeSmart property evaluation 
  2. Make improvements as recommended in the written evaluation
  3. Provide proof of associated costs
  4. Not make changes to the property that would worsen its score 
  5. Have a follow up evaluation to ensure satisfactory work

To find out more or schedule a LakeSmart evaluation, call Kristi Norcross at 577-6408. 

Winter on Taylor Pond

By Joan Macri July 2016

Over the years many people have enjoyed ice sailing. Nothing quite beats sailing across the ice with the wind at your back! Peter Garcia of West Shore Road has had a sail boat for many years and in approximately 2004, TJ Thayer took it for a spin.

Well into the 1950’s many scores of local men earned money in the winter by harvesting ice. Wesley Urquhart lived on the west side of the pond and had an ice operation. The ice would be cut into huge slabs, often more than 20 inches thick, floated in channels that had been cleared to the “haul way”  where they would be pulled ashore and stored in hay in an ice house. When Peter Durgin bought his property on Waterview Road from Sumner Peck, he found debris from the ice operation including lumber, chains, belts, and pull-ups. If you boat near the edge of the property, you can still see the 12” square wooden stanchions filled with rocks that marked the entrance to the haul way. The ice was used in ice boxes throughout the community. Prices probably varied from 15 to 60 cents depending upon supply and demand as evidenced by the sign Peter Durgin discovered in the old Lake Auburn Ice Company when he was a teenager.

Winter on the pond is always special. The colder is gets, the more still the air becomes. Sheeted in crystal and white, it is a lovely image to hold onto for those hot sun-filled days of summer!

Taylor Pond Water Levels & Flooding Report

By Marc Tardif, 7/3/2013

Last year, the TPA newsletter included an article by Dana Little and Susan Trask summarizing some of the many considerations associated with water level control. The article was largely in response to inquiries the board received from the general membership concerning the extensive flooding we experienced in June of last year. To further address membership concerns, the board established a water level committee with the task of identifying the natural and manmade influences having the biggest impact on water levels and flooding. The ultimate goal of the committee is to determine if viable opportunities exist to reduce the extent and duration of flood events. The board does not endorse control of normal water levels on Taylor Pond, and the water level committee is not engaged with any activity in that regard.

Over the past year, the water level committee has been very active with field surveys and meetings with professionals knowledgeable in hydrology and local conditions. The committee would like to acknowledge and thank the following organizations for their contributions of time and expertise which has led to the preliminary conclusions contained in this report: Stony Brook Land Use Consultants; Jones Associates Land Surveyors; John Field Geology Services; Auburn City Engineers office, Auburn Water and Sewer District, and the Auburn Public Works Department. A substantial amount of information has been provided by these sources and will be made available to view on the TPA website.

Flooding is a function of the broad and complex subject of hydrology. There are three primary factors that affect the extent and duration of a flood event. 1) The amount and rate that water is introduced to the watershed. 2) Storage capacity of the watershed at the onset of precipitation. Before flooding occurs, features in the watershed that are capable of holding water need to fill and overflow. This includes depressions in the land, soil saturation, dams, and the pond itself. 3) The rate at which water is allowed to exit.

Taylor Brook is the primary outlet for water exiting the pond in both normal and flood water conditions. Six features of the brook have been identified from the pond outlet to the Kendall Dam 1.5 miles downstream that affect both conditions in and around Taylor Pond. The brook elevation drops dramatically immediately after the dam, so there is no impact on the speed of pond water level recession from conditions located further downstream.

The first feature effecting the time it takes for water levels to recede is the fact that there are only two feet of elevation drop over the 1.5 mile stretch. The very gradual slope provides minimal energy to move water downstream and away from the pond. Thick vegetation throughout the stream course further reduces flow rates and results in what can be described as a very sluggish waterway.

The second feature of interest can be found a few hundred feet downstream from the pond outlet. Here we find a heavily vegetative area rooted in silt deposits that have raised the bottom of the stream channel. This raised area is referred to as a berm and extends the full width of the brook. The bottom of the channel in the berm area is higher than any other point along the 1.5 mile course. The significance of this naturally created feature is that this is the point where water would stop flowing from the pond and into the brook under receding low water conditions. Water levels below this elevation would be the result of water exiting by ground infiltration, evaporation, and transpiration. The berm has little or no significance relative to flood water dynamics.

The third significant feature is located just downstream of the berm where two culverts are installed at the point that the brook passes under Hotel Rd. Unlike the berm, this feature has no effect on normal water levels. However, under flood water conditions, this feature acts as a dam of sorts that limits pond discharge to the maximum flow capacity of the culverts. Another negative characteristic associated with this feature under flood conditions is that large amounts of water accumulating from the downstream Taylor Brook watershed backs up against the culverts further reducing water discharge rates from the pond.

The fourth feature encountered traveling downstream from Hotel road is a large beaver dam located adjacent to the Granite Mills Estates development. The dam traverses the entire width of the brook, and water elevation drops one foot between the upper and lower sides of the dam. This feature doesn’t have much if any effect on normal water level since its elevation is slightly below the height of the berm. The dam does have some negative impact on mitigating a flood event in that the water volume retained by the dam is volume that is not available for storage of storm water accumulations.

The fifth feature of interest is the slab bridge located on the driveway to the Kendall property. This is probably the most significant manmade influence affecting the time it takes for flood water levels to recede. The bridge acts in the same manner as the Hotel Road culverts by restricting flow rates. The restricted flow at this point exaggerates the backed up water condition at the Hotel Road culverts. The only impact this feature might have on normal water levels in the pond would be the slight increase in the time it takes for water levels to recede.

The sixth and last feature to discuss is the Kendall Dam which is located just below the Kendall driveway bridge. The dam has a higher flow capacity than the bridge, and is equipped with a currently inoperable sluice gate which might be used to further increase flow in a flood event. Flow restriction over the dam is somewhat moot at this time since the upstream bridge is more restrictive than the dam. The dam has little or no effect on normal water levels in Taylor Pond since the elevation of the dam’s spillway is below the berm elevation. The Kendall dam has the same effect as the beaver dam under flood conditions in that the volume of water retained by the dam is volume not available for storage of storm water accumulations.

The information used to prepare this report is reliable and adequately detailed to support the conclusions expressed above. Given the heightened level of understanding we now have, several options to reduce the extent and duration of flood events have been suggested. The most promising options entail methods to increase the flow capacities of the Kendall Road Bridge and Hotel Road culverts. Unfortunately, the existing data we have is not adequate for the purpose of quantifying the extent that any one feature contributes to the overall problem of flooding. If undertaken, the next step in this process would involve an  expert analysis to determine benefits which would be realized by modifying existing features. The value of any proposed benefit would need to be weighed against the cost to implement modifications. To be viable, several state and local authorities having jurisdiction would need to be on board with the process. The concerns articulated by Susan and Dana in the 2012 newsletter remain pertinent and should be revisited before additional action is taken.

Turtles

Turtles

by Dana Little, 6/25/13

Living on the pond’s edge, we occupy prime turtle habitat.  Both the large snapping turtle, up to 20 inches long and 60 pounds, and the smaller, more colorful painted turtle thrive in Taylor Pond.  At our house, every June, a female snapper emerges from the mud on the bottom of the pond, and appears on our lawn or driveway. She’s searching for a nesting site.  Over several hours, she digs up spot after spot in the soft mulch of our gardens, before settling on the right one.  There, she lays and buries 20-30 white eggs, about one inch in diameter.  She returns to the water and often, within 24 hours, we find the location of her raided nest by the broken egg shells strewn about by a marauding fox, mink, raccoon, or skunk.

Female snapping turtle seeking a nesting site.

Mother Snapping Turtle searching for a nesting site.

Any remaining eggs will hatch in the fall. The sex of these little survivors is determined by the temperature of their environment.  Females thrive at the extremes, low or high; males, at intermediate temperatures.  Because the temperature in a nest varies with depth usually a blend of males and females occur. The young hatch within 24 hours of each other and emerge en mass, overwhelming predators with their numbers to enhance their chance of survival.  They may climb to the surface immediately or wait until spring to appear.

Snappers, on average, live 30 years, although they can live much longer in captivity.  Aquatic plants compose about a third of their diet.  They often wait hidden in the mud on the bottom of the pond or suspended in the water where they will ambush fish, small birds, frogs and snakes.  Do snappers bite people?  On land their slow speed makes them vulnerable so they will snap if you get too close.  Swimming in the Pond, I’ve met snappers on many occasions. They simply turn and swim away when they spot me.  I am told snappers make good soup.  Unfortunately, they may harbor high levels of toxins.  I prefer to watch rather than eat this creature that’s been around since the dinosaurs ruled.

Painted Turtle hatchling

Baby Painted Turtle

Painted Turtles get their name from the bright red, orange and yellow markings on their dark underside shells.  They prefer warm, shallow water where underwater plants are plentiful.  They love to bask in the warm sun. When space is limited, up to four turtles will pile on top of each another.  During the summer they chase small creatures such as insect larvae, baby fish and tadpoles.  They also consume cattails, pondweeds and long strings of algae.  Although they can occasionally be spotted swimming beneath clear ice, in the winter they usually bury themselves in the mud to wait for spring.  Female painteds prefer to lay about 20 eggs in sandy soil in the sun. Painted turtles have been known to live for 13 years but probably live much longer.

When out in a boat, check that floating piece of log again; it may be a snapper’s head. Scan logs at the water’s edge for basking painted turtles.  If you want to see the snapper or the painted turtle in the water, put on a mask and snorkel, and float quietly in the shallows.

Turtle painted (2)

Painted Turtle