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Invasive Water Chestnut Plant Choking The Life Out Of Once-Thriving Westchester County Lake

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- An invasive species is choking the life out of one of the biggest lakes in Yonkers.

It's growing so thick, boating and other recreational activities were banned.

Now, a new attack on the invader could return the lake to its former glory, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported Wednesday.

The ducklings, the dragonflies and the white egrets are all at risk of being edged out by an invader. Drone Force 2 showed the incredible extent to which water chestnut plants have swamped the 10-acre lake at Tibbetts Brook Park.

Water chestnut plant
Westchester County has come up with a plan to wipe out the invasive water chestnut plant from lakes. (Photo: CBS2)

The water chestnut was brought to New York more than 100 years ago from Asia and Africa. People thought it was pretty and would make a good ornamental plant.

Little did they know how fast and far it would spread, robbing the lake of oxygen and sunlight.

"I've been complaining about the water chestnuts for 10, 15 years now. The smell at the end of the summer from the nitrous oxide that comes out from the water being dead is unbearable," Yonkers resident John Contarino said.

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The invasive plant grows so thickly, boating and other uses ended in the 1990s. The man-made lake had been a popular recreational spot since it opened in 1927.

"It was very cool. You're in the middle of Yonkers, but don't think you're in the middle of Yonkers when you're out on the lake. You're surrounded by trees and nature. It's really a respite here," said Joe Stout of the Westchester Parks Foundation.

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And now, relief is on the way. A grant from a local firm, Xylem, is paying for a mechanical harvester to rip out the chestnut plants. It plies the water and pulls the invader out by the roots.

"The mechanical harvester is able to remove four yards of water chestnut in five minutes, so, basically, what they're doing in 10 days would take us an entire season with quite a bit of volunteers," the Westchester Parks Foundation's Erin Cordiner said.

Volunteers pulling by hand will still be needed for hard-to-reach spots, but with the machine harvesting the hated plant, the invader should be vanquished by summer's end.

The Parks Department will monitor the health of the lake for a season or two, before reopening it for boating and other recreational uses.

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