Ask Georgie

Who knows more about Lake George than Georgie? He spends his days below the surface, and knows all about the Lake and how it works from the bottom up. Do you have an environmental question that isn't answered on our FAQ page?

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“I was walking the other day and noticed what looked like an oil sheen on a puddle of water. Is it oil? Where is it coming from?”

“I hear from many different places around the lake that the water in Lake George stays so clear because most of its water comes from underground springs. Is this true?"

“There is a turtle in our yard. Is there anything we should do?”

"Are native mussels edible?"

"I heard that the invasive spiny water flea is all over Lake George. Will they bite me?”



Q “I was walking the other day and noticed what looked like an oil sheen on a puddle of water. Is it oil? Where is it coming from?”

A The biological activity of some bacteria can create a metallic sheen that looks like an oil slick. However, if you stick your finger in the sheen, it cracks and breaks up. This is how you can tell it isn’t oil pollution. If you were to stick your finger in an oil slick, it would not crack and break up, but would rather separate around your finger and then go right back together once you removed it. So the simplest way to find out whether it is oil or not is to test it with your finger (or a stick if you prefer).

This metallic sheen is cracking and breaking up. It is not going back together – so that means it isn’t oil pollution.

Metallic sheens from bacteria are often seen along with what can be described as ‘orange guck’. The orange guck is actually rust that occurs due to iron sulfides in the groundwater reaching the surface and reacting with oxygen. And bacteria and fungi are feeding on the rust, which is what creates the metallic sheen. It probably isn’t a puddle either that you saw, but actually a groundwater seep.

Deep underground waters do not have access to oxygen. In these anaerobic conditions, sulfur bacteria liberate iron as soluble iron sulfide. When the ground water comes to the surface through a seep or spring and that soluble iron sulfide in the water comes into contact with the air, it oxidizes and precipitates out of the water, forming iron oxide, commonly known as rust.




Q “I hear from many different places around the lake that the water in Lake George stays so clear because most of its water comes from underground springs. Is this true?"


A It is just a myth that Lake George is mostly spring fed. The majority of the water in Lake George comes from 141 streams that surround Lake George in the watershed.
There has been no evidence since 1945 stating Lake George is a spring-fed lake. The first hydrological study conducted on Lake George in 1945 was commissioned by the New York State Legislature. The outcome stated that Lake George must be fed by “seeps and springs” due to its geological features and water clarity. These purely observational findings may have led to the present day misunderstanding of where the water in Lake George comes from. Hydrological studies of the lake were completed again during the 60s and 70s, but were considered inconclusive because data wasn’t taken during the winter.
There may be some small springs within the Lake that contribute small amounts of water annually, but not nearly enough to make a significant impact on the water’s clarity or quality. It would be a very tedious task to survey the entire lake bottom to find all natural springs. How much water is fed into the Lake by natural springs has not been proven, but it has been proven that they do not supply the majority of the water.
A formal hydrological budget was finally conducted in 1987, by Edward Shuster, Robert LaFleur, and Charles Boylen, three professors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and what is currently the Darrin Fresh Water Institute. The purpose of the study at the time was to determine the potential importance of the groundwater flowing into Lake George. The study set up six precipitation gauges, nine stream monitoring stations, and a meteorological station within the watershed.
The professors used a mass balance equation for water movement, plugging in the data collected over a full year from lake level, and dam outflow records. The year-long research concluded that 18% of the water in Lake George is groundwater, 26% is precipitation, and 56% is from streams.


Q “This is the scene at our house lakeside. Is there anything we should do?”


A This is a female snapping turtle laying her eggs. This occurs on properties all around the Lake, usually late May through June. She will lay anywhere from 20-40 creamy white eggs that look like ping pong balls. Don’t worry if it looks like she is making a mess in your lawn - she will cover the nest back up and return to the water.
Turtles don’t stick around to sit on the nest or care for their young like a bird does. In 80-90 days (August – Oct), the young turtles will hatch, crawl out and make their way to the Lake. The best thing you can do is just leave the nest alone. Don’t try to move the eggs; they are extremely fragile. Also avoid pesticide or fertilizer use near the nest.



Q "Are native mussels edible?"


A Simply put, no, it is not recommended that people eat any freshwater shellfish from Lake George or any other freshwater waterbody. Shellfish are considered any crustacean or mollusk used for food including: lobsters, crabs, shrimp, clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, and crayfish.
According to New York State Environmental Conservation Law Article 11, § 11-0107(1), “No person shall, at any time of the year, pursue, take, wound or kill in any manner, number or quantity, any fish protected by law, game, protected wildlife, shellfish, harbor seals, crustacea protected by law, or protected insects, except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Law.”
So not only is it not advisable, but it is actually against the law to collect or consume live freshwater mussels out of Lake George. People who want to collect and consume any mollusks out of the Lake must obtain a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Even invasive mollusks in Lake George, like zebra mussels and Asian clams, are protected under this law.
Although people could physically eat the mussels out of Lake George, it is still not recommended. Most shellfish (including our native mussel) are filter feeders, passing food particles and other matter through their bodies. Through this type of feeding, shellfish can build up high concentrations of bacteria or viruses in their tissues, which if eaten, could make a person very, very ill. Also it is rumored that many fresh water mussels do not even taste very good, so it would not be worth the potential environmental or health risks.


Q I heard that the invasive spiny water flea is all over Lake George. Will they bite me?”


A The spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus) is an aquatic invasive zooplankton native to Northern Europe and Asia. It is not an insect as its name might sound, but is actually a cladoceran, a type of crustacean. So spiny water flea isn’t actually a flea – and they cannot bite people. It is of no danger to humans or domestic animals and you will most likely never even know they are in the water.
Spiny water fleas, usually 1/4 - 1/2 inches in total length, are difficult to distinguish without magnification. Because they are so small, individual water fleas often go unnoticed. However, they can gather in masses on fishing lines and downrigger cables, so anglers are often the first to discover new infestations (which is what happened in Lake George).
Spiny water fleas are predators - they eat smaller zooplankton found in the lake. This puts them in direct competition with juvenile fish for food. They also have a substantial impact on the zooplankton community structure.

Q Where does the name “spiny water flea” come from?
A The zooplankton belonging to the order of cladocera, including daphnia and spiny water flea, are commonly known as “water fleas.” When cladocerans move in the water, they look like they are hopping around, giving them the “water flea” nickname. The invasive spiny water flea most likely got is common name from being classified in the order cladocera ( and hence a ‘water flea’)
and for the barbs that stick out on its long tail – giving it a spiny appearance.


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