Posted: Jul 11, 2013 4:26 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News
Updated: Jul 11, 2013 8:45 PM
The Central Coast is home to many of nature's gems, but one that is unknown to many is a lake in the Oceano Dunes. It carries a title that is not one to brag about.
Oso Flaco Lake is near the Nipomo Mesa. Once part of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Preserve, it's now managed by California State Parks. It's gorgeous, but what lies beneath the surface is what has scientists concerned.
"We see a lot of fishermen and other bird watchers," said Tom Slater and his son, Owen, who were birding.
Their adventure was at Oso Flaco Lake.
"It is a really amazing place. I mean you don't get many other places like this with so many habitats," said Owen.
The lake sits amongst the sand dunes, which makes it a dune lake.
It looks pristine, but Oso Flaco is one of the most polluted in California. That's because the lake has high levels of DDT used for agriculture, banned decades ago.
"This is basically the bottom of a huge watershed that is dominated by agriculture use, farming mostly, and everything just ends up at the bottom of the watershed," said Mary Hamilton, environmental scientist with the Central Coast Water Quality Control Board.
She posted warning signs at the lake saying there are pesticide contaminated fish.
"So the pesticides are obviously a huge concern for this lake for wildlife and for people who want to fish, but also this lake is contaminated with nutrients," she said.
Hamilton was taking water samples, which will be sent to a lab at UC Davis and tested for pesticides, metals and toxicity.
"We are finding the pesticides in all the fish and that is unfortunate because we have things like Lease Turns and other birds who are fishing on the lake," said Hamliton.
San Luis Obispo County is creating guidelines for the public on how many fish someone should consume from Oso Flaco, but what's interesting is the lake is home to massive goldfish, nine to 11 inches long.
"The problems here are severe, so the first step is to stop the pollution from coming in and once we have a handle on that we can begin restoration efforts," said Hamilton.
Tom and Owen hope to see that happen soon.
"This is our favorite spot because it has the tree tunnel and it has the boardwalk with the dune lake," said Tom Slater.
The Central Coast Water Quality Control Board is implementing an agriculture order, which requires farmers to put practices on the ground to protect water quality and keep the soil and runoff on their property and not let it end up in creeks.
Area farmers are also required to test the water quality in the creeks and lakes nearby.
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