Everyone who has gone to school in Storrs has walked by Mirror Lake from time to time. As you read this, you are probably picturing the peaceful landmark right now; lights strung on the surrounding trees and shining from the fountain reflect and dance over the water, which always exudes a calm, cool demeanor despite the hurried students who surround it daily. It is always a pacifying sight—tranquil and constant. However, if you look a bit closer, not all is as it seems.
A runoff pipe, quiet and unassuming, emerges from the western shore of the pond. The water where this metal intruder empties is tinted a color that can only be described as bile-like; the surface is glazed and seemingly semi-solid. Surrounding and enclosing this corrupted area is a bed of reeds, glowing an unnatural shade of bright green which would be right at home in the tropics but is alien and unsettling in a dour Connecticut early spring. Another runoff pipe is found on the eastern shore; this one empties into a larger area of water enclosed by reeds, which has the same opaque surface. The water looks more like oil than it should.
These tainted parts of Mirror Lake are warning signs that pollution has found its way into the water. This is easy to spot when you take a walk around the pond; algae can be easily seen as well as a slightly orange tint in the middle of the pond is reminiscent one of rust. The fact is, Mirror Lake is polluted, and it is easy not to realize this. Most of the lake looks pristine from the sidewalks and in the photographs that UConn likes to give to prospective students to show off the campus. This image, however, is a mirage.
The water quality in Mirror Lake has been corrupted by runoff from throughout all of campus—all of the fertilizer used in the grass, road salt and pollutants from traffic and construction drain their way into the lake via the runoff pipes and groundwater. In addition to runoff, Mirror Lake is also polluted when geese flock to the pond and leave feces which overload the pond with nutrients. This, combined with the fertilizer chemicals, results in the algae that can be seen throughout the pond. No fish could ever survive in this environment; it is doubtful anything lives in Mirror Lake besides bacteria (which have contributed to the deaths of ducks and geese by poisoning). It is amazing that the pond does not appear more murky, considering what finds its way in the water.
It is concerning enough that Mirror Lake is in this condition; however, the pollution has spread throughout the town of Mansfield because of Willow Brook, which winds its way from the northern end of the pond all the way to the Fenton River, a part of the UConn forest and a trout-fishing site. Algae from Mirror Lake can be found for a length downstream from where Willow Brook meets the river. In addition to algae, chemicals from the lake are carried to the Fenton; if you take a close look at Willow Brook when you are walking along route 195, you can see an orange tint in the water caused by the pollutants from Mirror Lake. It is distressing that this pollution has been allowed to become so widespread throughout Storrs.
UConn must take action to clean up Mirror Lake. It would not be right for a university as big as ours to simply ignore this issue. The pollution is not only an aesthetic issue but also an environmental on. It extends all the way to the Fenton River. UConn should respect its students enough to keep clean ponds that do not pollute the surrounding areas. A truly beautiful campus would have ponds that do not poison the ducks that swim in it. Perhaps instead of granting more bonuses to administration, UConn should dedicate money to cleaning Mirror Lake.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.