Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenLACONIA — The Lakes Region Clean Waters Association, which gained national recognition in the 1970s for its environmental activism, has officially disbanded and closed its books.
But, typical of the commitment to the environment that three of the founding fathers of the organization, Jim Walker of Tilton, Donald Foudriat of Sanbornton and Peter Kariagianis of Laconia, typify, it didn't depart the scene without making some final contributions to its original cause.
Walker says that the final two expenses chalked up in the organization's books were a documentary on it's history, ''Clearing the Water'', which was completed nearly two years ago, and a $5,000 contribution to the town of Sanbornton, which helped finance a $40,000 watershed management plan for the Black Brook area.
''The rest of the money. something close to $10,000 was donated to the N.H. Forest Society,'' says Walker, who at nearly 80 is the youngster in the group. He says he still has vivid memories of how bad it was on Lake Winnisquam in the 1960s.
''It was so filled with algae that it looked like pea soup,'' says Walker, who met recently with Kariagianis and Foudriat to reminisce about how the organization got its start and was formally organized at a September, 1969 meeting at the Laconia Tavern.
The organization was formed in a year which had seen the city of Laconia send thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into Lake Winnisquam during a high water event in the spring, when the treatment plant, built in 1950, was unable to keep up with the massive flow of water.
That had been the latest in a series of events in which inadequately treated sewage from both the city of Laconia and the former Laconia State School had been discharged into Lake Winnisquam, which since 1962 had been required massive applications of copper sulfate to control algae which fed off the phosphorus contained in the sewage.
One of the first acts of the association was to bring a lawsuit against the city of Laconia, which coupled with widespread public relations campaign brought public pressure on both the city and the state to take action to address the problem.
''There was a lot of resentment at us for suing the city. People wouldn't go to Peter's store (The Laconia Spa) as a matter of principle. And it hurt my business,'' says Walker, who lived on the shore of Lake Winnisquam in Tilton and ran Walker Glass in Laconia.
Don Foudriat, who owned a summer home on Lake Winnisquam and was an engineer with a Nashua-based defense contractor, brought his own expertise to the project and remembers locating the so-called bypass valve which allowed untreated sewage into the lake while on a tour of the Laconia sewage treatment plant with his family.
Kariagianis, a well-know Laconia businessman who had served as a Republican state legislator in the 1960s and would later help save the Belknap Mill from the wrecking ball, said that he was appalled that the city and state hadn't stepped up to protect the Lakes Region's greatest asset, it's water, and used his leadership skills and ties to the area's business community to tirelessly promote the need for environmental activism.
''A lot of people helped us out, Esther Peters from the radio station and Bob Lamprey from the local realtors. They were all with us,'' says Kariagianis.
Citizen action even led to the local League of Women Voters leading a campaign to ban the use of phosphate detergents in the city and eventually to a ban on new sewer hookups to the city's sewage treatment system until the issues with the treatment plant were resolved. The city of Laconia stepped up to the plate as well, funding an $80,000 study of the city's sewage treatment facility which concluded that the plant was indeed a major contributor to the algae blooms in Lake Winnisquam.
The group's efforts led to the passage of House Bill 50 in a special session of the legislature in 1972 which established a regional sewage treatment system for eight communities in the Lakes Region which would be operated by the state and funded by the communities,
The following year the association's efforts received national attention when William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), came to the city with a $1 million grant.
''We were very important to the EPA. They wanted a good news story about environmental activism, which was a big part of what they wanted to achieve nationally,'' says Foudriat.
The association received the EPA's first Environmental Protection Award in 1975.
''Those were good times, fun times,'' recalls Kariagianis, ''we can look back in satisfaction at what we did.''
Peter Kariagianis, Donald Foudriat and Jim Walker, founders and former presidents of the Lakes Region Clean Water Association, which gained national recognition for its environmental activism in the 1970s, say that the organization's legacy is reflected in its recent gift to the town of Sanbornton to help pay for a Black Brook watershed management plan. (Roger Amsden/for the Laconia Daily Sun)