"Fog flowed from the mountains into Spednic Lake. The eastern sky was an arc of amber light. Wind roaring through the trees was thick with the dank scent of lake water turning over. Northern Maine gets cold in early October, and I had spent most of the night shivering beneath clear skies and a swirl of stars. The Milky Way ran exactly over the middle of the campsite, perpendicular to the stream. The last thing I saw before falling asleep was a shooting star splitting the sky in two." www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/travel/canoe-trip-maine-canada-border.html... See MoreSee Less
We recently received an inquiry from a member lake association about the use of soaps and shampoos in lakes, whether bathing in the lake is an acceptable practice, and if there were certain biodegradable products that were "safe" to use that wouldn't affect water quality or wildlife. Below is an excellent article on this topic prepared by our former President, Peter Kallin and former head for the Maine DEP Lakes Division, Roy Bouchard. Please share with neighbors and friends that may be asking the same questions.
"...there are a lot of things that we used to do in our lakes that we have since learned were not all that good for water quality. And things that weren’t that bad when one person did it are hundreds of times worse when hundreds of people do them." - Peter Kallin
Summertime Bathing- Roy Bouchard Bathing in the lake was a fun summer tradition that seemed totally harmless before we started to study water pollution. We now know using soap and shampoo is not an advisable activity, particularly when and where lots of other people are doing it.
While many soaps are biodegradable, that does not mean they are harmless. Even assuming there would be rapid dilution; the localized concentrations may be high at least briefly when there are multiple bathers in the same area, together or in succession. Many soaps contain surfactants which are important for cutting oils and similar substances and making them soluble so they wash off. These are often either toxic or challenging to life in the lake, especially microorganisms and invertebrates. Soaps may also alter the pH (acidity) of the water significantly in the vicinity of their use. Deodorant soaps and dandruff shampoos often contain heavy metals or other ingredients that are harmful when multiple people are using them in an area.
Many soap labels claim “no phosphorus” or “low phosphorus”. Most soap, even “no phosphate” ones, contains some phosphorus. While several “green” products are indeed a lot better than the standard bathing soaps and shampoos in this regard, the body oil and other grime washed off bathers’ bodies, greatly aided by soaps with their surfactants, can contribute a lot of phosphorus to fresh waters.
In addition to phosphorus, body oils, and other pollutants, bathing in lakes can contribute bacteria and viruses at higher amounts than just swimming. While it may or may not be a heath issue in a given situation, do we really want to increase the bacteria numbers in lakes where others are swimming? And many people find the thought of swimming where others have been bathing unpleasant – it makes the lake seem more of a bathtub than a lake.
So what to some may seem an innocuous activity in reality is one of the many things people do that all add up to water pollution. Everyone should know that it is not allowed under state law to intentionally introduce foreign substances (including soap and shampoo) into our waters without a permit. However, let’s not just rely on the law as a justification for saying not to do it. The reasons stated above are behind the law and why I can’t encourage people, pets, or any other kind of bathing or washing in lakes.
Summer camps and public facilities have a special opportunity and responsibility to be good stewards of our waters and to educate not only their campers but the public by way of example. We as lake users have our own role to play by not polluting the waterways we all share. ... See MoreSee Less