WATER QUALITY 2020-2021 | Len Klein / Barry Lishawa

We are planning a full season of testing this year! Two promising interns have been selected, Kelsey Mills and Meagan Walters. Both are Northwestern Michigan College Water Studies students. They will be mentored by Len Klein, Phyllis Laine, Barry Lishawa, and Dick Roeper. Abbey Hull, a 2019 intern will work with them on data analysis and writing this year’s report.

Last year we did very little sampling due to the pandemic. As a result of the protocols of NMC and our testing labs, we did not have interns. Also, there was no MiCorps’ Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program as it was not funded by the State. To improve our future testing, we acquired a YSI monitoring instrument.

The recommendations of the 2019 study are still valid. Everyone is encouraged to limit or eliminate chemical fertilizer applications near the lake and to ensure that septic systems are functioning properly. Efforts should continue to be made to control surface water runoff and to minimize erosion by creating a natural vegetation buffer zone or “green belt” along the shoreline. These approaches will help limit the introduction of additional phosphorus and nitrates into the lakes’ ecosystem. Leaves and other debris should not be raked into the lakes. These measures will help preserve the oligotrophic status of Mickey and Long Lakes. Hopefully, Ruth Lake, which is a eutrophic lake, will remain relatively stable with these efforts.

We would also like to note that Sierra Clark, one of our interns from 2018, is a current Mishigamiing Journalism Project Fellow. She is Michigan’s only full-time Indigenous affairs journalist and will be joining the Record-Eagle newsroom in June.


In 2014, Long Lake monitoring was performed by Great Lakes Environmental Center of Traverse City.
This monitoring is undertaken every 3 to 6 years.  The report concluded that these long-term water assessments, starting back in 1997, allows any important emerging trends in water quality to become evident, and provides the opportunity for appropriate action to be taken to address any concerns.  Phosphorus concentrations are considered low and indicative of excellent water quality.  Sampling data indicates that Long Lake would continue to be considered oligotrophic, high quality lake based on total phosphorus in the water.  Oligotrophic is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “having a deficiency of plant nutrients that is usually accompanied by an abundance of dissolved oxygen”.  “Water quality conditions in Long Lake have potential to be vulnerable to deterioration.  It is recommended that Long Lake continue to have a comprehensive outreach and education component regarding nutrient use near the lake shore, as well as continuing efforts for surface water runoff control.  These will all help limit the introduction of additional phosphorus (such as using fertilizer containing phosphorus on lakeside lawns) to the lake ecosystem and help preserve the oligotrophic status.”

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Do not feed ducks, geese, swans or sea gulls.
  • Do not bathe, wash hair or bathe your pets while in the lake.
  • Do not clean boats or lift covers with soap or chemicals, and rinse in lake.
  • Use necessary precautions to avoid accidental spills of gas or motor oils. Remember: one quart of motor oil can potentially contaminate 250,000 gallons of water.
  • Rake leaves away from the lake. Do not burn leaves or have bonfires close to the shoreline. Ashes contain soluble nutrients which quickly leach into the water.
  • Do not dump fish cleanings or any refuse into the lakes.
  • Advise children and/or adults to not defecate in the lake.
You Can Help
Since 1921 dedicated citizens comprising the Long Lake Association have significantly contributed to its welfare and preservation.Today, as the watershed’s population continues to swell, life issues like water quality and resource preservation and protection loom even larger. By 2025, Long Lake Township’s population is forecast to grow by 5,200 persons. The result is 1,900 additional housing units and three square miles of added housing area.

That’s why we need you!
Long prized among the state’s cleanest and clearest inland lakes, spring-fed Long Lake’s reputation and continued health has never been more dependent on the efforts of organizations like the nonprofit Long Lake Association and its collaborative partnerships.Citizens are encouraged to become involved by joining us and becoming an active member. Please contact Membership Chairman, Long Lake Association Inc., P.O. Box 257, Interlochen, Michigan 49643 to join.

A spring discussion meeting is held annually on a Saturday in June, and an annual membership meeting is hosted on a Saturday in August. Association newsletters are published before each meeting as reminders.

Won’t you do your part?


The most prevalent causes of excessive lake plant and algae growth are fertilizers and faulty septic system wastes that seep into the water system.

The dense vegetation that results threatens the natural balance of lake plant and aquatic life, thus accelerating the aging process of the lake.

Here are some important and helpful facts to remember:

  • Phosphorus from septic tanks and/or systems can travel as far as 300 ft. through soil to the lake. Soils already saturated with phosphorus from fertilizers cannot efficiently remove this chemical from septage tanks. The result is nutrient pollution. DO NOT use a fertilizer containing any phosphorus or potash unless a soil test indicates a need for these nutrients. Look into using “0″ phosphorus fertilizers. Remember that eutrophication is the process of nutrient enrichment of lake waters. Phosphorus is usually the key ingredient in this process.
  • Use fescue grass, rather than bluegrass, for establishing your lawn. This type of grass requires less than half the nitrogen of a bluegrass lawn. Water lawns sparingly to reduce lawn nutrient run-off to the lake.
  • Avoid fertilizer-herbicide mixtures. If weeds become a problem, apply herbicide treatment in the fall.
  • Whenever possible, rake and remove fall leaves from your lawn. This precludes leaves blowing into the lake and increasing nutrients.
  • Waterfront property ownership affords riparians an obligation to do what is right for the lake and provides it protection. Planting greenbelts (strips of ground cover with shrubs and trees) can help preserve the cleanliness and clarity of our lakes. Greenbelt buffers can limit nutrient leaching caused by excessive lawn fertilization and faulty septic systems. Greenbelts also control erosion on sloping banks as vegetation roots help prevent soil erosion caused by water run-off, wind and wave action.


Septic systems are an efficient form of wastewater treatment when properly maintained. When overloaded, neglected or incorrectly maintained, these systems are likely to fail and cause accelerated lake eutrophication.

Know the layout of your septic system in relationship to your home, installation, service and service dates, etc. Use the folder WQ-39 available from the Michigan State University Extension Office for recording relevant information about your septic system.

Tips for keeping your septic system operating properly:

  • Inspect tank every two to five years for sludge level.
  • Pump tank when sludge level exceeds one third volume.
  • Never build, drive on, pave over, or fertilize around your drainfield.
  • Consult your septic system pumper to establish how often your particular usage requires service. Follow this schedule.
  • Plant shallow rooted plants around drainfield.
  • DO NOT dispose of poisons, drain cleaners, bleach, paints, chemicals, disinfectants, grease, cigarette butts, hair, facial tissues, paper towels, sanitary napkins, motor oils, water softener waste, or band-aids into sinks or toilets.

Signs of septic system problems:

  • Clogged drains and toilets backing up.
  • Foul odors around septic tank or drainfield.
  • Wastewater surfacing around drainfield.
  • Dark green algae growth on rocks along shoreline.
  • Conserving water is a key ingredient to a properly functioning septic system. Heavy water use forces solids and soil particles to clump and pack together. In turn, these clumps will clog drainfields, necessitating replacement of the entire septic system.


  • Repair dripping faucets and toilet leaks.
  • Add a brick to your toilet tank(s) to save a half to one gallon of water per flush. (Each flush will use five to seven gallons of water.)
  • Install water conservation devices on shower heads.
  • Only use dishwashers and washing machines when fully loaded.
  • Minimize use of garbage disposals. Begin a composting program for waste materials and yard leaves.