Follow your nose
Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014 12:30 pm
It paints a pretty mental picture – you’re walking along the boardwalk at Lagasse Park, on a calm mid-summer evening. The birds are skimming the water, children are laughing as they play in the spray park and people are walking their dogs.
But take a deep breath in, and the mental picture erupts, as your nostrils are invaded by a pungent, putrid smell.
This year, residents noted the stench in the Lakeshore area of St. Paul seemed to be worse than ever and at times, permeated the entire town. Lagasse Park should be St. Paul’s most attractive and appealing area, featuring a natural habitat for wildlife, playgrounds and a new spray park built on the backs of hundreds of volunteer hours and generous donations. But instead, people report avoiding the area and the spray park, saying the smell was gag-inducing.
In the midst of that, the Town of St. Paul is having the lake water quality tested. If the water were to be deemed clean enough, having a lake that would allow for recreational activities would definitely boost the appeal of St. Paul.
But addressing the issue of the smell so far has not been the town’s primary direction, and without doing so, this idea seems like it’s dead in the water. Even if some people are ready to take the plunge, and go kayaking or canoeing on the lake, there is a definite impact to quality of life for residents and potential recreational users from not being able to breathe near or on the lake without choking on the odours.
On researching the issue a little more, it is questionable as to the cause of the problem, whether it’s blue-green algae decomposing, smelly sediments exposed by the shrinking water levels or the lagoons at the nearby waste treatment plant. Addressing the issue may be complex as well, with environmental regulations to be followed – however, it still bears inquiry.
The lake smells clear across town and even in winter it persists, so algae decomposing or shrinking lake levels exposing smelly sediments may not be the only or major source of the problem.
Any plans to make the lake usable and open to recreation are fabulous and the initiative is to be applauded, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s follow our noses first and find what, exactly, is making St. Paul stink.