May 22, 2022
This spring Taylor Pond Association tested the stream that crosses the Taylor Pond Yacht Club property and found high levels of phosphorus draining into the pond. High levels of phosphorus can cause algae blooms that threaten our water quality. It is not certain what caused these high levels but they did coincide with spring runoff following a timber harvest. Woody Trask and I have been investigating the possible cause.
In late 2021, TPA was alerted to two possible causes of increased erosion and potential phosphorus runoff into Taylor Pond. Underwood Farm, off West Auburn Road, cleared trees around a feeder stream supplying Lapham Brook, the main inlet for Taylor Pond. This clearing violated Best Management Practices for erosion control. The City of Auburn became concerned because of the potential to pollute Lake Auburn. As a result, The city required Underwood Farm to develop a phosphorus control plan. The plan requires a 75-foot buffer on each side of the stream. In addition, they need to comply with a manure management plan that involves removing all manure and trucking it off site on a regular basis. Followup investigation of runoff suggested that little water from the farm makes its way to Lake Auburn and that it primarily drains into Taylor Pond.
A second area of concern arose this winter when Taylor Pond Yacht Club conducted an extensive timber harvest on their 44 acres. A small stream courses through the property and empties into Taylor Pond. The harvesting machinery crossed the stream using a temporary bridge and erosion of the bank was visible at the site. In addition, trees were harvested on both sides of the brook and
deeply rutted trails were created with the potential for soil, and therefore phosphorus, washing into the pond.
Because of these two issues we began testing for phosphorus in selected feeder streams to Taylor Pond. We had not been testing feeder streams prior to last year. For the last 36 years we have been testing the water at the deepest spot on the pond using techniques taught to us by the Auburn Water District and Lake Stewards of Maine. Lake Auburn has had its feeder streams tested for years and their technicians provided us with expertise to test Taylor Pond’s streams. We sent the water samples to the state lab in Augusta and A&L Lab in Auburn for testing.
Initially, we just checked Lapham Brook and obtained a level of 8 (parts per billion) in December and this rose to 12 in March. By comparison, the average phosphorus last year in Taylor Pond was 12 (the 36-year average was 10.25). Levels in this range will not typically cause harmful algal blooms. This provided some small reassurance that Underwood Farm was not causing problems for Taylor Pond.
We then tested the brook crossing Taylor Pond Yacht Club property in January, prior to spring runoff, and we obtained a level of 4. However, in March, after the completion of timber harvesting, this rose to 37. This high level was obtained after a rain event and the snow had mostly melted. If all streams leading into Taylor Pond had levels this high, we could face a significant algal bloom. Algae can not only be unsightly and decrease home values, but they can also produce toxins that can be harmful to pets, people and wildlife.
On April 19th we repeated the testing on the Taylor Pond Yacht Club stream and Hodgkin’s Brook just after another heavy rain event. We tested Hodgkin’s Brook because it is another small feeder stream running into Taylor Pond. The results for the Yacht Club stream came back at 8 and Hodgkin’s Brook at 7 for phosphorus. This reassured us that high levels of phosphorus are still not entering the pond. Actions have been taken by Wylie Mitchell to reduce the likelihood of further erosion into the Yacht Club stream, using hay bales as barriers, spreading hay and seeds on exposed soil. Taylor Pond Association will continue to monitor feeder streams regularly and as needed if concerns are raised.