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Local students dive into a unique summer job

NH Weed Control Diver Trainer Ted Aldrich congratulates young trainees Erich Burghahn, Dominic Jude, and Mitch Fillion upon successful completion of the technical aquatic weed control diver certification training. (Thomas Bates Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
June 15, 2011
This summer, a handful of local students snagged the opportunity to join forces with the local business Aqualogic, and become certified weed control, underwater divers.

John Jude of Gilford recently took over Aqualogic, and is looking to eradicate milfoil around the lakes with local divers, encompassing one of the youngest diving teams in the state.

Last Sunday, Jude, along with his tenders and Gilford High School divers who were recently certified — including his son Dominic Jude, 16; Mitchell Fillion, 16; and Erich Burghahn, 15 — took out a specialized boat at Gilford Town Beach.

This boat is considered a DASH unit, which stands for Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting, and is one of many methods used to help eradicate milfoil. Last weekend, the newly equipped diving team practiced this technique by Smith Cove in Gilford, where invasive milfoil is believed to be plentiful and harmful.

Both Jude and Fillion were certified two weeks ago, and Burghahn received his certification as a weed control diver last week, so the diving team can train together before taking on various jobs this summer.

Local tenders Christian Eldridge, 15, of Gilford and Winnisquam High School tenders Austin Lunt and Tom Ryan will also help out this summer, and make sure the tank of the DASH unit does not clog during the intricate process.

"My dad bought the company Aqualogic a few months back, and I got a couple of kids to join after talking about diving with them," said Dominic Jude. "We are the youngest diving members on the team, and also have some young tenders. I didn't think about diving until my dad got involved. Now I really like it, although I did used to swim on a team."

At first, Jude felt that the prospect of diving underwater was somewhat intimidating, yet now, after taking classes, he feels at ease diving, and is able to apply the skills he has learned so far through his training, although he added that breathing through a tank takes some getting used to.

Jude said he and his fellow divers are learning how to dive and manage weed control properly in order to use the DASH method on milfoil in local lakes. Students must meet the standards of the program referred to as PADI, a national certifying agency. The master instructor for the state, Ted Aldrich, is working closely with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and also training these local students.

Both Jude's peers, Fillion and Burghahn, were swimmers before taking up diving as well. Burghahn was also looking to get into scuba diving, and eventually the Coast Guard, making this an ideal summer job.

By the end of the training session Sunday afternoon, the team brought in two buckets full of milfoil which the divers had harvested and carefully pulled out by the roots, to ensure the weeds would not regenerate.

Diver instructor Aldrich is currently in the process of looking for another instructor to help him out with training certification, since he is the only instructor at this time in New Hampshire.

"I have certified weed control divers from the age of 15 to their late 60's, yet this may be the largest group of young divers I've seen so far in the state," said Aldrich.

He said after partnering up with DES in recent years, he feels the state now offers the most efficient and relevant program possible for weed control divers working with the DASH method.

"Some people believe that DASH is simply like a vacuum cleaner sucking up milfoil, but it's not. You must have divers that know what they are doing," said Aldrich. "Today, we worked on a lot of skills, and focused on getting the weeds out of the bottom without making a mess, so the divers can see. You have to get the weed by the roots so it doesn't start a new plant, and must also avoid fragments, which can propagate themselves."

Aldrich also wanted to give credit to two DES employees and co-teachers who helped him develop his most recent, including Amy Smagula and Jody Connor, who unexpectedly passed away last week.

Martin Lord Osman
Armen Kevorkian
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