Alum Starts Today

ST. MARYS — A key component in the fight to heal Grand Lake St. Marys started being applied to the lake by the barrel today.

HAB Aquatics — the firm that handled last year’s application — took to the lake to start a 45-day alum application of the entire body of water. The $5 million project is a key component in the battle against phosphorus in Grand Lake St. Marys.

“The application should be very similar to what we saw last year,” Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Brian Miller told The Evening Leader. “They are set up at the West Bank now and people should see basically what they saw last year when they apply the alum.”

In mid-March, state officials confirmed a lakewide application would take place in the spring in order to beat the heat of the summer months. Last year, several test projects pushed the application back to June — when hot temperatures fueled algae growth. The delay forced officials to scale back their plans for a lakewide application and concentrated their efforts on the middle 4,900 acres of Grand Lake St. Marys.

Last year’s application yielded positive results. The target goal was to get phosphorus reduction of 50 percent. The treatment reached a reduction of 56 percent within the middle portion of the lake and the entire lake saw a reduction of 20 to 30 percent.

“They are going to do the western half now and then once they get that half done, they will mobilize all the tanks and move the operation to behind our park office,” Miller said. “That should be about mid-April.”

However, Mother Nature could play a role in the application process.

“That’s the biggest hurdle,” Miller said, noting high winds are the main concern for applicators. “The only other concern would be environmentally — if the dissolved oxygen would plummet. We had a preapplication meeting this week and they said there would have been two days this week they wouldn’t have been able to apply because of high winds.”

Threatening dissolved oxygen levels also played a factor in scaling back last year’s alum application. Low dissolved oxygen levels could spark a massive fish kill in the lake.

“It’s probably not quite as much of a concern this year but it is still a concern because we always have algae in Grand Lake St. Marys,” Miller said. “We don’t have the concentrations like we do in the summer but we do have it year round. Hopefully with the cooler temperatures and being earlier this year, it won’t be an issue.”

Miller encouraged residents to come out and witness the application. However, he stressed the importance of respecting the process.

“Boaters will want to stay clear of the barges,” Miller said.  “If you want to observe it’s fine, but they are working on a track and are on GPS and once they get going, it’s hard for them to maneuver. The same with the job site — fences are up but if people want to come and watch, they can. They have to be respectful of the job site and stay outside the fences.”

A slew of state officials will be on hand today to witness the start of the process as well as for a ceremony dedicating the newest dredge, Brutus.