Crystal Lake appears as pristine as its name, at least on the surface.
But down below is where the milfoil lies - a slimy and insidious aquatic invader residents here are battling to root out.
"We want our lake," said Jean Burns, a Crystal Lake Association member and lakefront homeowner. "We want the resource to stay."
Native to Europe and Asia, milfoil is a freshwater weed that is an unwelcome presence in Connecticut from Candlewood Lake in the western part of the state to Crystal Lake in the east. The plant is believed to be transported between lakes and ponds by boat trailers and water fowl.
The effort to get rid of the milfoil began Tuesday.
Armed with giant underwater vacuums and Navy SEAL-style scuba gear, Jason Houghtaling and his three-man crew from Water's Edge Restoration and Management of Danbury will spend the next three weeks working underwater to remove the spiny weed.
"We're using a method called 'suction harvesting,' " Houghtaling said Tuesday, aboard his pontoon boat 200 yards off the shore. "We actually are sending a scuba diver down who is controlling a 4-inch vacuum hose. He catches the top of the plant in this vacuum hose, he reaches down with his hands, plucks the root ball out and it goes up the giant hose into a large bag."
A recent survey of Crystal Lake found that about 20 acres of the 200-acre lake has been overtaken by milfoil. Broken off pieces of milfoil can grow back and get to be as long as 25 feet.
"This plant can take over a lake; you will no longer be able to boat in the lake, you will no longer be able to swim in the lake," Houghtaling said.
The objective of this mission is to rid the lake of about half of its problem.
"This is an ongoing battle so you have to take it one step at a time," Houghtaling said. "We can take a bad problem and make it very controllable."
Published August 5, 2009