OH: Treatment under way at Grand Lake Park

St. Marys, Ohio – The three beaches at Grand Lake St. Marys
State Park remain posted and visitors are warned against contact
with the water as efforts continue to treat the 13,000-acre lake
for toxic algae.

A joint effort by the Ohio departments of natural resources,
agriculture and environmental protection to address algal blooms
began on June 2 and will continue until June 30.

A contractor is spraying 2.5 million gallons of liquid aluminum
and liquid sodium aluminate on 4,900 water acres, according to
Brian Miller, park manager.

Particles of the chemical combination will “flock” or attach
themselves to phosphorus in the water that feeds the algae. The
mass will then sink to the bottom of the lake.

“It will stay for eternity or until we dredge the lake,” Miller
said.

Originally, the state aimed to spend $5 million to treat the
entire lake surface. But fears a project that included the
nearshore areas would cause fish kills prompted a scale back. The
state now plans to spend $3.8 million this year and spray only the
center portion.

Miller estimated treatment will tie up 17 percent of the
phosphorus in the lake. He hopes it will diminish the intensity of
algal blooms.

“Will it stop it? No,” Miller said.

Environmental experts trace source of the phosphorus (and
associated nitrogen) to agricultural runoff from 450 farms in the
lake’s watershed. Most are livestock operations.

But Miller insists Grand Lake remains a good place to fish, camp
and ride in a boat. That’s the message he wants to get across to
anyone considering a visit to the area.

Miller feels broadcast news reports don’t accurately portray the
lake’s current condition and noted most outlets continue to show
file video from last summer.

He noted the type of toxic algae that sounded alarms about water
quality in 2010 has not appeared as yet.

However, a different variety that has plagued the shallow,
hand-dug lake for years remains a concern for public health
officials.

Locals and park regulars continue to show up, but weekend and
out-of-state visitation is down.

Ohio State Park’s Jim Henahan said 476,997 people visited the
park in 2010. That’s considerably less than the 687,017 who visited
in 2009 and the 737,145 from 2008.

Miller considers the campground’s 85 percent occupancy on the
recent Memorial Day weekend a positive sign. About 90 of the
campground’s 153 electric sites are already reserved for the
upcoming July 4 weekend.

Fishing is good for bass, catfish, bluegill and crappies.
Testing last winter showed no toxins present in the flesh of lake
fish.

“They are safe to eat within the normal fish advisory
guidelines,” Miller said.

The park hosted bass and carp tournaments in early June.
Forty-two boats turned out for the bass event and about 30 anglers
participated in the carp tournament. One hundred and sixty kids
participated in a youth derby held June 4-5.

Miller blamed a recent gizzard shad die-off on a lack of oxygen
in the water. The imbalance routinely occurs in hot weather and is
unrelated to the algae problem, he noted.

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