Derby man creates unique contraption for testing Salem Lake water

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:26 AM EDT
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DERBY, Vt. (WCAX) - Nestled in the Northeast Kingdom, Salem Lake is a serene recreational oasis.

Ross Ogilvie has owned a camp on the lake for 35 years. It’s a special place, a family gathering spot.

Like many of his neighbors, the health of the lake is something he cares about, which is why he’s on the Salem Lakes Preservation Association. The volunteer-run group tries their best to maintain the lake, and that sometimes includes water-testing.

“We’ve done that for years, and I’ve gotten more structured with it with specific locations, and we go back to those every year,” said Ogilvie.

The group has been battling Eurasian milfoil, but things are looking up on that front. A recurrent issue for Big Salem and Little Salem Lakes is E. coli.

“We monitor both Little Salem and Big Salem. Right over here was the highest it’s ever been in the inlet to the lake,” said Ogilvie.

That’s why Ogilvie tries to be diligent about testing the water, but it’s a process.

“You have to put the bottle into the water a foot, and then turn it over so that you get from a foot below, and then you take the sample back out, and stuff like that,” said Ogilvie.

Samples need to be taken 3 feet deep.

“All the boats that were available to do that testing were party boats and you’re up at where we are, you’re at an altitude. Nobody had a boat that was on the water,” said Ogilvie.

That means Ogilvie had to get up close and personal with the mucky floor of the lake. And that was a pain in the boat.

After years of getting stuck in the mud and losing shoes along the way, Ogilvie decided to engineer something to make the water testing process a little easier. Ogilvie is a retired engineer, so whipping up this contraption was no problem.

“You just hook it up to a 12-volt source, stick it in the water, hit the button, and you’re off and running to take a sample,” said Ogilvie.

Using PVC pipes and some Vermont ingenuity, this water-testing debacle was fixed in a flash. His solution seems to be doing the job, plus it saves him time, energy and a couple of pairs of water shoes, too.