PEABODY — Can you envision swan boats, paddleboats and canoes gliding by a floating water fountain on Crystal Lake? Mayor Ted Bettencourt can.
The city has had grand plans to restore the sludge-filled and weed-choked lake to its former glory, along with adjoining Elginwood Pond, and create a recreational hot spot on the North Shore. City officials have talked about this project for well over 20 years — a cleanup was even permitted and designed at one time — but Crystal Lake always took a backseat to other priorities.
No longer. Bettencourt said he aims to complete permitting and designs this fall, with work to begin next spring. Approvals are needed from federal and state agencies and the city Conservation Commission.
There’s still a big unknown for the project, though, and it hinges on exactly how much fertilizer and other chemical runoff is sitting on the bottom of the lake. That could buoy or sink the city’s plans.
Tighe & Bond, the consulting firm hired to oversee the restoration project, will spend the summer testing sediment in the lake. If those results yield a clean bill of health from state environmental officials, the project can move forward as planned, said Bettencourt, and the dredged material or fill can be marketed to contractors and developers.
If a high level of pollutants is found, however, disposal costs would likely skyrocket, and the project would have to be scaled back, he said. The dredging cost is estimated at $2 million, and that wouldn’t change, but the city would be limited to a couple of disposal sites for the material and wouldn’t have the opportunity to recoup expenses.
“The main thing is to save the lake,” Ward 6 City Councilor Barry Sinewitz said.
Bettencourt and Sinewitz, who are working closely together on the project, believe those tests will turn out favorably for the city, however, based on a preliminary analysis by Tighe & Bond. Sinewitz said the consultants believe the sediment is clean and may contain only pockets of pollutants where runoff has settled.