Mercury levels in murky Lake Merced increase


Antonio Maffei ’20

his overhead view of Lake Merced shows that the lake is far from the pristine condition the early explorers found it in.

Antonio Maffei ‘20, Social Media & Online Editor

Not many major cities can boast of having its own, natural lake, but San Francisco can.

Lake Merced is a small “freshwater” lake on the southwest corner of San Francisco. The lakeis filled with history, beginningwhen it was discovered in 1775 by Father Pedro Font on the DeAnza expedition. According tohistorical reports, Father Font described discovering Lake Merced, saying, “We saw a grove of live oaks near which is the Laguna de la Merced, where Captain Ribera stopped; and herewe saw dozens of bears.”

Settlers began to set up tents and villages around the lake, especially amid news that gold was found in California in 1849. At approximately 11p.m. on Nov.22, 1852, a large shaking was reported to have occurred by those in the areas around the lake. The next day, settlers discovered a fissure around half a mile wide and several hundred yards long through which the waters of Lake Merced were flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

The cause of the fissure was most likely heavy rains, forcing a passage through the sandbank at the north-west end of the lake. And on Sept. 13, 1859, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court David S. Terry killed United States Senator David C. Broderick in a duel after a debate over slavery at the lake.

In the present, many can agree that Lake Merced is not in the same pristine condition as it once was, with its green water staring back at visitors. What exactly is wrong with the waters is speculative, and so, on a Saturday morning, with the fog encircling the lake, The Crusader ventured out there to perform several tests on the water quality.

The results were interesting, and quite different from 18 years ago. Mercury levels were higher than previous tests, which adds evidence to a recent report from the California Fish & Game Department that states that shrimp are extinct from the lake and trout are getting close to extinct.

This is because of oil from cars, dirt and materials inside of gutters and a variety of other contaminants being washed into the lake during periods of precipitation, which added to the lack of circulation of the water gives the lake its green color.

Sufficient water for the futureis being secured through a pending plan with neighboring Daly City to capture and treat storm-water runoff and channel it to Lake Merced.