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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Jul. 5, 2013 5 years ago

Weed-covered lake now jewel of the neighborhood, thanks to one local

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Toni Pollitz couldn't tolerate a dirty lake, so she got to work cleaning it, using just a rake, herbicide, fish and a some elbow grease.

BY WAYNE GRANT | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A lot of work and initiative by one neighbor has improved backyard views for several residents who live around a small lake between Timberlake Lane and Bramblewood Lane.

The lake has gone from a weedy green to crystal blue, thanks to Toni Pollitz, who orchestrated its cleanup.

Pollitz, who has lived on the lake with her husband 25 years, began her quest when the lake became covered last year with the floating fern salvinia.

“The weeds were a pretty green, but it was a thick cover over the lake,” she said, adding that she missed gazing upon the water's view from her patio. "(You could) see the reflection of the trees in the water. It's just beautiful."

Neighbor Joanne Zimmerman has lived on the lake 35 years and says it occasionally becomes covered with weeds. But residents step up and get cleaning.

“One time it looked like a green lawn,” she said. “My dog thought it was a lawn and went running right into it. That’s how bad it was. I think the weeds are also bad for the (birds) when they dive for fish."

After checking with the lake's owner, another neighbor, Pollitz got started. And her first step was manual labor.

With a rake in hand, she walked around the lake, pulling in weeds off the water.

“I walked through everybody’s yard, raking the weeds off the lake,” she said. “I spent about 15 total hours doing that. I absolutely made a dent in it.”

Her next attack was with chemical weapons.

After consulting a local aquatic specialist, she zeroed in on the right herbicide then asked neighbors to help chip in to cover its cost. She and her husband then applied the chemical with a pump sprayer from their small boat.

“The weeds turned brown and sank to the bottom,” she said, “and just mixed in with the silt.”

Another measure she has taken to keep the lake clear is to add grass carp, one of the few fish that eat aquatic vegetation and are known to eat duckweed, hydrilla and other plants.

To place the carp in the lake, she had to get a state permit and have the fish introduced to the environment by a licensed company. Again, she looked to her neighbors for fundraising and also to help buy a barrier for where the lake feeds into a creek.

Grass carp must be contained to a permitted area by using barriers, according to Rhonda Howell, of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. A non-native species, they can be very detrimental to certain environments, she said.

Also, the only carp that can be used for this purpose are ones that have been sterilized and cannot reproduce.

According to the commission, there are several factors to consider before introducing grass carp into a body of water. For example, a certain amount of weed cover is good for fish, and grass carp may eat too much.

Chris Graham, of Clear Waters, Inc., a company that supplies grass carp to area lakes, said their customers include homeowners and large associations.

“One advantage is that it’s biological control of weeds rather than chemical,” she said.

But depending on what else is living in the lake, the carp may need to be replaced fairly often. Sometimes, Graham added, they are eaten by otters.

But Pollitz said she hasn’t seen any otters in the lake for a couple of years  — and now, she’s keeping her fingers crossed that it stays that way.

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