Phosphorus pollution not keeping people away from Madison’s lakes

Phosphorus pollution not keeping people away from Madison’s lakes
File photo

Despite levels of phosphorus pollution in the Yahara River watershed that spurred community leaders to launch a 20-year cleanup plan, many Madison-area residents took advantage of the perfect weekend weather to enjoy a day at the city’s lakes.

“This weekend, with the great weather, we’ve been very, very busy,” Stephan Reinke, who runs Brittingham Boats along Monona Bay, said Sunday.

In addition to the Yahara River, the Yahara watershed includes lakes such as Monona, Mendota, Kegonsa and Waubesa.

The cleanup plan, called the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network, is expected to cost $104 million over two decades, but should save residents living in the watershed nearly $14 million per year, government officials say.

Reinke said the phosphorus levels creates high levels of seaweed in the lakes.

“Phosphorus definitely promotes the seaweed growth,” Reinke said. “So, less phosphorus, less seaweed.”

According to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, phosphorus pollution in the Yahara watershed comes from sources such as agricultural runoff, urban stormwater and discharge from wastewater treatment facilities.

Reinke said despite the pollution, he hasn’t noticed any issues among swimmers or boaters.

“No rashes, or terrible diseases, or anything like that,” he said.

“(The pollution) doesn’t keep us from boating,” Shannon Hattenhauer, who was out on the water with her family on Lake Monona Sunday, said. “It would be nice if it were a little bit cleaner, especially toward the end of the season.”

Reinke said more people in the lake can help keep seaweed levels at bay.

“People paddle out, paddle through it and it just gets the water moving,” Reinke said. “The more people in the water, the better.”