After nearly 30 years of neglect, Tarrytown has taken the first steps to rescuing Tarrytown Lakes from the algae and muck that have choked the reservoir since the Eastview Pumping Station was decommissioned.
For 100 years, the 11,000 square foot stone and granite structure supplied water to the village, until its 800,000 gallon per day capacity became inadequate in the early 1980s. With cheap water available from New York City's Croton Aqueduct System, the village decided to make the switch.
Since then the building has turned into an eyesore and the waters have succumbed to algae and weeds. In early August, the village started using an aeration system in the Upper Lake, nearest to the EF International School of English (formerly Marymount College).
"That lake was so clogged with algae," said Tarrytown Lakes Committee Chair Amy Wessan, "it looked like you could walk across it."
The Tarrytown Lakes Committee, formed by the village about four years ago, has championed a $ 6 million comprehensive plan to restore a once beautiful 19th century stone and granite structure into a state-of-the-art pumping station, environmental education and trail head facility with water as its theme. They see the pumping station as the "Gateway to Tarrytown"
A new aeration system installed at the beginning of August has already made a difference. The algae in most of the Upper Lakes have disappeared. The Clean-Flo Lake Aeration System pumps compressed air to diffusers at the bottom of the lake. A buffered alum compound reduces the phosphate levels in the water and the oxygenation removes carbon dioxide necessary for lake weeds to grow. The company adds "beneficial bacteria and enzymes" to improve water quality and remove 97% of the phosphates in the water column.
"The Lakes Committee is like the Little Engine that Could," said Wessan. "Our persistance and the growing recognition of the importance of clean water will move this project forward."
Because of leaps in technology, the pumping equipment would take up only a fraction of the existing 11,000-foot historic building, allowing room for exhibits, rest rooms, and an exciting science trip of the Sleepy Hollow schools, which are within walking distance. Architect Earl Everett Ferguson's feasibility study, presented at a meeting last winter of the Tarrytown Board of Trustees, contemplates an Environmental Education Center, Multipurpose Meeting, Event and Exhibition Space, a Cafe & Trail Head Facility, Kayak/Boat Recreation and Storage Area. Equipment for an Emergency Water Supply Pumping and Filtration Plant is specified but not included in the $ 6 million project estimate.
Although the price of New York City Water to residents has increased by 650% since 1980 and pumping 800,000 gallons per day translates to over $ 2 million a year at current prices, the water itself represents only a fraction of the cost; the rest includes delivery, maintenance and personnel. Thus, it remains to be seen if restoring the facility's pumping capacity could pay all, or even part of the restoration cost.
According to Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell, "Restoring the lakes to a healthy, natural state is clearly a great project and the Village greatly appreciates all of the work done by the Lakes Committee. Whether or not we can follow through on the full restoration of the pump house will require a good deal more analysis and funding."
Post-script: In 2011, Wessan was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the Village of Tarrytown, for her invaluable assistance in the development of the Adaptive Reuse Plan for the Eastview Pump Station, which was presented to her by the Mayor.
Eyesore may turn into "Gateway to Tarrytown"
by Alexander Roberts September 1, 2010