LaBonte Lake — situated in the park of the same name — is sometimes known locally as “Stink Lake” after the distinct sulfurous odor that frequently emanates from it.
Lately, however, residents living near the park said the nickname feels particularly apt, much to the annoyance of Todd Feezer, director of Laramie’s parks and recreation department.
“Unfortunately — and it makes my skin crawl to say this — the affectionate name for that lake is ‘Stink Lake,’ and people have been calling it that for 50-plus years,” Feezer said.
“It’s all a matter of how the environment comes in as to what’s going to actually happen.”
Thanks to a recent dry spell — and a few days of intense heat — the temperature of the lake rose above 50 degrees, eroding the lake’s natural thermocline. A thermocline is a steep temperature gradient dividing warmer water from cooler water. This gradient kept decaying materials at the bottom of the lake; without it, there is nothing to keep the carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from the decaying materials from seeping out into the air.
These gases are the source of the odor that — in the early morning or when it is hot — wafts blocks away from the park in all directions.
This year’s odor is notable but not unprecedented, Feezer said.
“It’s been a hard year this year in that we’ve had many days above 80 degrees, very little cool rainfall, so there hasn’t been any water coming into that system,” he said. “It’s part of the storm water system so it relies on water from runoff from around the area and we just haven’t have the moisture this year.”
Dani Hackley, a Laramie resident who lives close to LaBonte, said she could still use the park for running as long as she went in the cooler evening hours.
“I can’t even smell my cat’s litter box when I get home because it smells so bad,” Hackley said. “I can’t forget that smell.”
Jim Engleman, another nearby resident, walks his dog — a corgi named Chloe — around the asphalt path that circles the lake and the park.
He said the odor could be ignored if you go later in the day and avoid being downwind.
Feezer and his crew are at work remedying the situation, using a treatment called Pond Clear. The treatment adds bacteria to the lake that feeds on the decaying matter, cleaning the body of water from the surface down.
“We’re excited to see, hopefully by the end of the week or middle of next week, we see some significant improvement on that lake,” he said.
Feezer said the gasses being released by the lake do not pose a threat to human health or well-being; they are simply unpleasant to smell.
“The Parks and Recreation Department is committed to clean, quality amenities to the community,” Feezer said. “And we’re working hard to figure out a solution to get this corrected so that people don’t ever have to endure it — and hopefully to have that lake called what it is, LaBonte Lake, and not ‘Stink Lake.’”