Amy Wessan Fine Art

By Lizzie Hedrick, January 11, 2010

For nearly 100 years, Tarrytown’s two lakes provided drinking water to all of the village’s residents.  However, since 1980 the lakes — known to locals as Upper and Lower Lake — have sat stagnant, amassing high levels of grime and algae.

After thirty years of neglect, the water’s progressive decline — or eutrification — will begin its reversal this spring, with the implementation of an innovative purification system, “Clean-Flo.”

“Clean-Flo is a completely affordable and eco-friendly system that actually puts oxygen back into the water, therefore making it habitable again for aquatic life,” said Yoram Gelman, a long-time Tarrytown resident and active member of the Tarrytown Lakes Committee.

Four years ago, a group of local activists organized the Tarrytown Lakes Committee with the goal of restoring the lakes to their pre-1980 conditions. 

“Watching Tarrytown’s lakes get dirtier and dirtier was something people in the village really didn’t like,” said Amy Wessan, Chairman of the Tarrytown Lakes Committee.  “But it took throwing ourselves into the project to convince the town government to do something about it.”

Gelman became especially concerned with the poor water quality two years ago, after receiving an e-mail from another resident about an oil spill.  He responded, and began researching different methods of preventing and reversing eutrification.

“We had scientists come and test the water, and it was determined that the lakes still supported a viable ecosystem, but just barely,” Gelman said. “They said it was just a matter of time before the water would be declared completely dead.”

Gelman was introduced to the Clean-Flo by experts at Mahopac’s lake services company, Aquatic Restoration.

“Clean-Flo is based on the idea that water needs a lot of oxygen to support biological processes,” Gelman said. “The system uses pumps to diffuse oxygen through porous stones. The holes break the flow of oxygen into tons of tiny bubbles, making enough surface area for the oxygen to be effective.”

Gelman introduced the idea to the Lakes Committee, who, in turn, presented their plan to town trustees. 

“After months of meetings with staff at the Village Hall, we got the town’s approval to start Clean- Flo at a board meeting in December,” Wessan said.  “We’ll start by putting the pumps into Upper Lake, and if it proves effective, we’ll do the lower one as well.”

Once the process of cleaning the lakes is underway, Wessan describes ambitious plans for the surrounding site.

“This past year we developed architectural plans to transform the Eastview Pump Station building into a complete nature center,” Wessan said. “It’s a beautiful stone building which, once restored, will house restrooms, an environmental laboratory, exhibition space, classrooms for use by the local schools, and even a café and rooftop picnic area.” 

She also envisions opening the lake for kayaking, row-boating and possibly swimming.

“Although the town has allocated funds to clean the water — $16,500 for the installation of the equipment and annual maintenance agreement — we’ll still need to raise money from private donors to construct the nature center. Our estimated cost is $6.5 million,” she said.

Although Tarrytown’s lakes will never have enough water to provide for the more than 11,000 village residents, Lakes Committee members agree that restoring the lakes’ purity could potentially save the village a portion of the money annually spent to purchase drinking water from New York City reservoirs, and would at least serve as a emergency reserve.

“Having this goal come to fruition is very exciting,” Wessan said. “There’s nothing more gratifying than helping your town run more efficiently—and also making it into a truly beautiful place to live.”

To get involved with the Tarrytown Lakes Committee, e-mail

Note: The Tarrytown Lakes Committee is a recognized sub-committee for the Village of Tarrytown.

This spring, Tarrytown plans to begin process of cleaning local lakes.