Initial Lake Results Look Promising

Space between two extended rock berms protecting the reconstructed West Beach from the rest of Grand Lake St. Marys.
Staff Writer

Initial test results from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) suggests that the water inside West Beach on Grand Lake St. Marys is showing microcystin toxin levels low enough for people to make contact, but more testing is needed before signs will be taken down.

Three samples were taken from the lake earlier this week. Officials will not remove the signs, however, until more tests can be done to ensure that outside factors, beyond the renovations made, didn’t contribute to those results.

The World Health Organization has a human contact threshold level at 20 ug/L (micrograms per liter). In the past, the lake has seen levels as high as 120 ug/L but more recently as low as 25 ug/L to 50 ug/L.

Testing on the lagoon-style lake will continue throughout the year and into 2020, according to a press release from the ODNR said.

At the August Lake Improvement Association meeting, it was discussed that Dr. Stephen Jacquemin at the water quality testing lab at Wright State University — Lake Campus will have a probe that will be placed in the lake that will provide live results that the LIA hopes to publish on their website and app.

The monitoring will be done with a device called a spectrophotometer which emits light of a specific color and reads how much of that light comes back to determine how much photosynthesis is going on in that area.

“Cyanobacteria is a little bit different than most other synthesizers in that it uses a very particular wavelength of light,” Jacquemin explained at the meeting. “This instrument fits that wavelength of light, and effectively what it does is it sends out transmission beam of a certain amount of that light and measures how much of it comes back.”

He added that by being able to know how much algae is in one area, they will be able to estimate how much microcystin toxins are present also. Microcystin toxin is the byproduct of cyanobacteria that makes water toxic to human touch and consumption.

The construction on West Beach began earlier this year, with the final additions completed in early August. The beach saw the extension of two rock berms, creating a sort of curtain between the beach and the rest of the lake, as well as dredging of 41,000 cubic yards of phosphorus laden muck and the installation of aeration units that create another curtain to protect the beach water from the algae in the rest of the lake.

“The Villa Nova West Beach was once a popular destination for both visitors and local residents,” said Donna Grube, executive director of the Greater Grand Lake Region Visitors Center, in the release. “We are hopeful that this project improves water quality because this area is a special place for making happy memories.”

To get this project completed, multiple groups worked together to get the funding and complete the work. According to the release, the Ohio General Assembly provided $250,000 for capital improvements and Ohio EPA provided a $50,000 grant through Auglaize County for the aeration units.

“Auglaize County is pleased to be a partner in this restoration effort by helping secure grant dollars for the pilot project,” said Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer, in the release. “We are looking forward to the return of visitors to this beautiful beach and recreation area.”