Plant Often Found In Home Aquariums Has Taken Over Massapequa Lake

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A water plant usually used in home aquariums has covered virtually all of Massapequa Lake on Long Island, and homeowners are fed up with the sight and stench.

As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello and TV 10/55 Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported, an aquatic harvesting boat on Monday was seen dumping a bunch of water chestnut plants — the clumpy, swampy tangle of overgrown weeds that have taken over the 40-acre Nassau County-owned lake.

The weeds are 5 to 6 feet deep in the middle of the lake.

“Right now, we have an aquatic harvesting operation at Massapequa Lake,” said Brian Schneider of the Nassau County Department of Public Works.

Cash-strapped county officials borrowed the harvesting boat from Massapequa town officials, and have called on volunteers to rip out the invasive Asian water plant that has taken over and ruined homeowners’ lakeside dreams.

“It’s getting ridiculous,” said lakeside resident Tom Pober. “It’s everywhere. You can’t even see the water.”

Pober said hot and humid days have only made the situation worse.

“At nighttime, the stench is definitely more prevalent,” he said.

Pober and other residents said the county let the water chestnuts build up for years, wiping out any catch for the dwindling fishermen drawn to the lake. There were no nibbles at one clear spot Monday.

County officials suspect the fish population has dropped because the water chestnut plants suck up oxygen and block sunlight.

“It takes over the water. It crowds out the more native species,” Schneider said. “It has a real deleterious effect on the water body itself.”

Local residents scoffed at the earnest, belated county cleanup. They said the harvesting machine cannot really do the job needed.

“It’s going to grow back, because you’re not really pulling the roots out. You’re only cutting it at the water line,” said Massapequa Lake resident Marvin Houle.

County officials said they will keep at the effort in hopes of ridding the lake of the water chestnut cover within a couple of years.

County leaders also suggested that homeowners dumping plants from their aquariums into surrounding waterways could have helped fuel the rapid increase this year. But officials could offer no specific examples of anyone doing that, and admitted they are not sure where the water chestnut plants came from.

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