Right in time for the Wisconsin Dells summer rush, Lake Delton is looking a little bluer than usual.
The company maintaining the lake dumped blue dye into the water to appeal to tourists and people living nearby. However, some people don’t think the color change was the best idea for the lake's health.
Aqua Engineering founder Josh Britton said the decision to dye the 267-acre Lake Delton was due to concerned neighbors who wanted a way to deal with the algae. Britton said other options to cut down on nutrients were already exhausted, and something had to be done as quickly as possible.
"When people are begging for something to be done and then something is done and it turns out as positive as this, it's not for me to interpret the value," Britton said.
Aquatic Engineering handled the dye job, which could last two weeks to a month. Britton said dye does no harm to the environment or anyone who comes in contact with the water.
The lake make-over totaled nearly $30,000. Tom Diehl, president of Tommy Barlett, Inc. and longtime Wisconsin Dells entrepreneur, said the cost was not covered by taxpayer dollars. The money, Diehl said, was taken from a pot of tourism-driven funds.
"That pales in comparison to what we spend maintaining the natural resource that we have here at the lake," Diehl said.
But Matt Krueger with the River Alliance Of Wisconsin said he doesn't think the dye was the best investment for the lake.
"If you could apply that money toward upstream solutions, it would be money better spent," Krueger said.
Krueger said that the dying product is labeled as "non-toxic." Krueger said he isn't sure what the effect could be on water life, but he said water pollution should be dealt with directly with more holistic planning. He said the dye does nothing to clean up the lake in the long term.
"I don't know what the impact is going to be. It's more, the important thing is that what was done is not a viable solution to a more complex issue," Krueger said.
Krueger said he understands the commercial value of the lake and what the aesthetics mean for the surrounding businesses.
Aqua Engineering acquired a special permit from the Department of Natural Resources to use the dye. That permit requires the company to limit the product to the assigned "treatment area" as best as possible. However, DNR representatives said no one is suggesting that overflow into the Wisconsin River would have adverse effects on the river's health or harm anyone who came in contact with it.
At least six complaints about the dye are filed with the DNR. Aqua Engineering said there was a brief investigation conducted by the DNR to ensure pesticides were not being used in the lake, but Britton said that has wrapped up without incident.
The village of Lake Delton has long battled algae and weeds in the lake, which was made famous in 2008 when major flooding caused it to overflow and send several homes into the water.