In the late 1970’s Chesley Lake began to exhibit some water quality problem, noticeable to the residents in the form of algae blooms and lack of sport fish. Spawning shoal enhancements were made (walleye) met with some success, but poor water quality conditions appeared to be the limiting factor preventing fish community growth.
Various Government agencies were approached for help and a series of studies were conducted to examine water quality, environmental issues and propose innovative solutions. From this research, the Chesley Lake Lung Project was started.
Chesley Lake Lung Project
The Lake Lung Project was an innovation proposed to restore water quality of Chesley Lake through hypo limnetic oxygenation through an aeration system to assist the recovery. However the Lake Lung Project could not alone recover and maintain water quality of the lake. The CLCA also began educating residents through newsletters and public meetings to use phosphate free products, not use fertilizers, and be more environmentally aware of their daily behaviour on the health of the lake. The Chesley Lake Sewage Systems Survey prepared by the Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound Health Unit, Environmental Division (1994) resulted in numerous septic systems upgraded under the C.U.R.B. program (Clean-Up-Rural-Beaches). Tighter building restrictions were placed around the lake. A hatchery was started to improve walleye stock and a programme of fish stocking which continues to present day.
The Chesley Lake Cottage Association spent much time and effort over the initial years negotiating with various governmental agencies such as the “Environmental Partners Fund” and ACTION 21 for financial support to move forward with the Lake Lung Project. The CLCA was told if the residents contributed substantially, government agencies would look more favourably at the project and even match funding. The CLCA proceeded with this costly but worthwhile project on the assumption that government funding would be available. Initial funding was raised from residents with contributions in excess of $30,000.00 in cash. This money, together with in-kind donations of land, housing for equipment, etc. amounted to $125,000.00. The Ministry of Energy and Environment provided management and consulting staff to guide the project.
Approval from government agencies was repeatedly delayed until finally the Chesley Lake Cottage Association was told the fund had been discontinued. There was no government funding available for completion of the Lake Lung project. At the time of the last refusal for funding, an additional $95,000.00 was required. It was up to Chesley Lake interest groups, residents, businesses and supporters to raise the necessary funds to complete the project and maintain the equipment in an ongoing annual basis.
The CLCA decided in May 1996 to proceed with the project in stages. In 1996 Stage 1 began. There were 109 members of the Chesley Lake Cottage Association with an annual fee of $10.00. In June of the same year, with the help of donation in the amount of $46,000.00 from members of the community and donations from various business enterprises, air was pumped into the lake with an air compressor at approximately 25 to 30% efficiency. The option to delay the completion of this project or run in inefficiently was not a good option. But this was our only alternative until the funds were raised.
Stage 2 began in 1997, with the hopes of raising enough money to complete the project. The CLCA membership fees increased to $20.00. The properties around the lake were mapped and organized with volunteer canvassers who visited every home, cottage and trailer site on the lake in hopes of raising the necessary funds. This was difficult as many of the larger donors and already given their funds in the initial fundraising efforts. The fund raising effort in 1997 resulted in reaching the total goal of $225,000.00. This provided the necessary funds to move forward with the next stage, the installation of a pure oxygen unit which would produce 100% oxygen levels. The oxygen unit was ordered and installed in June 1998. The system was operational during the 1998 through 2000, with some problems such as vandalism which created short-term shut-downs.
Through the 1990’s and into the 2000’s the oxygen equipment was working well, only requiring maintenance of equipment and underwater pod cleaning. Water testing was ongoing with oxygen and phosphorus levels being monitored. There were many other changes going on around the lake; older cottages replace by new ones, some of which are permanent homes. Better septic systems and more awareness on the on the environmental impacts residents have on daily living on the lake contributed to improved water quality.
Bubbler Aeration - Linear Oxygen Diffuser
In the spring of 2001, a severe storm with high winds and shifting ice severed the unit from its anchors and severely damaged the oxygen lung beyond repair. It was eventually removed from the lake. The Association received an insurance claim totaling $55,000.00 which allowed us to proceed with an alternate underwater system.
In 2002 it was decided to try an alternate method of Lake Oxygenation using bubbler aeration technology. In 2003, the bubbler system was revamped to include ceramic modules which produce much finer bubbles that are more easily absorbed by the water.
Fine bubble aeration is an efficient way to transfer oxygen to a water body. A compressor on shore pumps air through a hose, which is connected to an underwater aeration unit. Fine bubble diffused aeration is able to maximize the surface area of the bubbles and thus transfer more oxygen to the water per bubble. This equipment was installed in 2002 and was fully operational in 2003.
The next stage was to plan for the future direction of Chesley Lake. A $25,000.00 study was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources under the Provincial Fish & Wildlife Enhancement & Protection Program. The report released in May 2002 confirmed the work done to date, including the ongoing addition of oxygen to deeper areas of the lake, was helping restore the lake, but it continued to be environmentally sensitive.
By 2015 the equipment was aging and beginning to fail, thus some new investments into equipment replacement were necessary, such as a compressor, building repairs, oxygen generation plant reconditioned, as well as updating the in water bubbler system. Since the bubbler was installed the quality of the lake water has shown steady improvement. The chart below shows the phosphate level improvement in the lake water over the last 25 years.
1988 shallow .019 mg/l - deep .062 mg/l
2005 shallow .013 mg/l - deep .020 mg/l
2012 shallow .008 mg/l - deep .013 mg/l
The goal of the Chesley Lake Cottage Association is to bring those numbers down even further with the hope of reaching the Ministry standard of .002 mg/l.
In the spring of 2018 new bubble tubing will be installed with micro bubble technology using Bubble Tubing®. These tubes produce smaller bubbles and the smaller the bubble diameter, the higher oxygen transfer rate. Millions of fine micro-bubbles create a larger surface area to transfer oxygen than fewer larger (coarse) bubbles. Additionally, smaller bubbles take more time to reach the surface so not only is the surface area maximized but so are the number of seconds each bubble spends in the water, allowing it more time to transfer oxygen to the water. The tubing will be placed in 3x 100 foot lengths about 400' east of the island, at the deeper 30-50' sections of the lake, and spread out where possible.