ST. MARYS — Contractors tasked with applying chemicals to help reduce phosphorus levels in Grand Lake St. Marys are scheduled to wrap up the monthlong project today.
HAB Aquatic Solutions won the bid to apply alum to the center 4,900 acres of the lake in order to neutralize phosphorus already in the water. Phosphorus is a food source for algae, a major issue at the lake.
“The project has gone very well,” HAB Water Quality Specialist Tad Barrow told The Evening Leader. “We have well over 600 loads coming in every day. There are a lot of logistics to work out but it has gone smoothly and well. We are pleased with our application and are excited to see the results of the phosphorus reductions as soon as Ohio EPA makes that available.”
Once crews apply the last of the alum, they will break for the holiday weekend and return Monday to demobilize the command site near West Bank Marina. Barrow noted the sheer size of the project provided some hurdles crews had to overcome.
“This is the largest project ever that’s been done for any contractor, not just us,” Barrow said. “It’s definitely unprecedented in size and scope but we came in with a very strong plan on how we were going to approach it and we stuck with our plan.”
One of the hurdles was to keep trucks hauling the necessary chemicals for the application on time. Communication, Barrow noted, was critical.
“It really came down to the daily application rate and how much product you can apply per day and basically adjusting what you can apply with trucking loads,” Barrow said. “Maybe you have an environmental condition and you know you will sit for three or four hours and that will cause a potential back log in trucks so you have to communicate with dispatch and all the drivers. What’s worked out well is that every driver has our phone numbers and before they show up, they will call and ask where we are at.”
During the application, crews sprayed 1.754 million gallons of aluminum sulfate and 877,100 gallons of sodium aluminate in Grand Lake St. Marys. Barrow noted after applications, water clarity improved.
“There have been a couple of improvements,” Barrow said.
“One is Ohio EPA is on the project and noticed a 4-inch increase in water clarity, based on their measurements. Another very positive thing is chlorophyll-A. There are continuous monitoring stations around the lake and they monitor for parameters — oxygen, temperature, pH and chlorophyll-A — that’s the green pigment in all plants and algae. There has been a declining trend in the overall chlorophyll-A.”
Hundreds of boaters and walkers turned out to witness barges truck out onto the lake for applications. Barrow said that sent a positive message to workers.
“There were curious onlookers and people taking pictures and videos,” Barrow said.
“It’s a unique process and I would expect that. We’ve had people stopping at the launch site watching and that’s great because the people are invested in the lake and curious as to what’s going on.”
Barrow also praised the work of state and local officials for helping make the process run smooth.
“I am pleased with the staff we worked with from ODNR,” Barrow said. “The site manager has been excellent and the local parks director Brian Miller and Scott Fletcher — both have been very good to work with and are very in tune to what we are doing.”