Lacamas Lake in Camas, Washington, is suffering from a major algae bloom — and according to residents of a nearby homeowners association, their community’s storm drains are part of the problem, The Columbian reported.
In the 1980s, the luxury development Lacamas Shores installed a biofilter — a deliberate arrangement of aquatic plants and specific grasses meant to absorb nutrients from water, the Columbian explained. The biofilter was a cutting-edge design at the time and was meant to clean the water from the community’s storm drains before it flowed into the lake.
However, after five years of careful maintenance, Lacamas Shores resident Steve Bang claimed the HOA ignored the biofilter for decades, letting it become overgrown with trees and blackberry bushes that prevent it from working correctly.
That claim is the basis of a lawsuit Bang filed against the HOA in 2021. “It turns out, I’m suing myself as an HOA member,” Bang told the publication. “[Residents] ask me, ‘Why?’ My answer is, ‘Why are you not?’”
Excess nutrients from fertilizer and yard waste can be dissolved in rainwater runoff that ends up in nearby bodies of water, creating what’s called “nutrient pollution.” This is common in areas with lots of agriculture or large areas of grass — like an upscale subdivision.
When nutrient pollution hits a body of water, it can cause algae to grow out of control into a toxic algae bloom. The thick clouds of algae make the water slimy and sometimes even smelly. They also choke out other species, preventing them from getting light or air. That throws the whole ecosystem out of balance and can kill off many species.
According to the Columbian, Lacamas Shores isn’t solely responsible for the Lacamas Lake algae bloom. The city’s water tests have determined that almost three-quarters of the total nutrient content in the water comes from the creek that feeds into the lake.
HOA President Don Trost, who assumed the role in 2021, told the Columbian: “There is an implication that we’ve been irresponsible. I think it’s unfair to the members.” He also claimed that Bang was only suing to get rid of the trees that blocked his property’s lake view.
However, according to Bang, he focused on the biofilter because it was an easy problem to fix, even if it wasn’t the largest problem overall. “Fix the biofilter and maintain its overgrowth,” Bang said. “It’s plain and simple.”
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