The Adirondacks are a group of mountains surrounded by many lakes and rivers, that cover over 5,000 square miles in the northeastern part of New York. There are a lot of large tourist villages on every lake. Motor boating and other water activities take place on almost every lake in the area. It is a vacation paradise for thousands. But, industrial emissions from Canada and the Ohio river valley always drift to this area and cause acid rain. This silent killer is destroying these beautiful lakes and their surrounding watersheds. Acid rain has an adverse effect on the lakes, and their surrounding watersheds, of the Adirondacks in New York State.
Acid rain is defined as chemically polluted rainfall. It’s causes are: coal burning plants, industrial factories, smelters, and car emissions. It’s formed by water molecules combining with the sulfur dioxide emitted by the burning of coal and with nitrogen oxide from auto emissions. The result is an acidity level that’s harmful to fish, wildlife, plants, and trees. Already, 1,200 lakes in the U.S. have been completely acidified so the lake water is unfit for human use and little or nothing can live in it.
Such is the case in the Adirondacks, which are a group of mountains surrounded by many lakes and rivers. They cover over 5,000 square miles in the northeastern part of New York state. It’s an area where large resort villages are around the Saranac river and Lake George. Lumbering and mining for iron and graphite go on in this area and it was once a place for major industry. Unfortunately, this is an area where acid rain has become a regular part of the water that flows through it.
In recent years, acid rain hasn’t really been in the news because people have felt that the problem has been taken care of so, therefore, it’s not around anymore. However there has been no evidence that the acidification of lakes in the Northeastern U.S. has stopped or even slowed down. The analysis of sediments from lakes in the Adirondacks has shown that acidity started rising in the 1930’s and 40’s and has been rising steadily ever since. There are two possible reasons for this. Scientists have been studying the chemistry of the rain and they’ve discovered that while the deposition of sulfuric acid has decreased in the last two years, the deposition of nitric acid has increased. This means that the acidity of the rainfall hasn’t really changed. Decades of acid deposition have affected the buffering capacity of sensitive watersheds so acidification in very sensitive lakes can continue even if acidity is decreased.Researchers have found that geology and weather contribute to the increased acid sensitivity at high altitudes. The rainfall and lake’s collection of rain runoff tend to go up with the altitude in the Adirondacks. So higher lakes usually receive more acid rain. Also, these high altitude lakes tend to sit near thin soil leading to more acidity. All of this means that more fish kills will occur because the only life these lakes can support are water insects and yellow perch.
With all these problems acid rain has made possible over the past fifty years, there are bound to be some solutions. A possible solution is “liming”. This form of treatment is named for the limestone commonly used in this procedure. It involves applying mineral powders or pellets directly into affected lakes and streams. It brings about an almost immediate and potentially revitalizing increase in ph. The water containing the buffering agent is flushed out of the system and is replace by untreated water. This replacement will occur after a year or two. This treatment also limes the land draining into the lakes and streams. Watershed liming would prevent the potential of toxic over buffering that has resulted from some of the poorly controlled lake treatments. This is the fastest remedy for surface-water acidification and most effective method known because of its chemical neutralization.
Limestone can also prevent acidification. If a lake had a large deposit of lime on its bottom, then it would be difficult for it to ever become too acidic. One example of a lake with a limestone bottom is Lake George, near the northeastern New