Local Officials Praise Results

ST. MARYS — Local lake officials praised the results of Wednesday’s report on the alum treatment of Grand Lake St. Marys and noted it was a step in the right direction.

“It was a necessary item to keep the lake moving forward this summer,” Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Facilitator Tom Knapke said during a teleconference with regional media. “We appreciated it immensely.”

On Wednesday, the state released a report that indicated June’s alum application on 4,000 acres of Grand Lake St. Marys reduced phosphorus levels inside the test plot by 56 percent. The entire lake experienced a reduction of 20 to 30 percent. The target before the application started was 50 percent in the application zone.

Knapke touted the success of the application as a testament to the work of the lake’s master plan, which was compiled and released earlier this year. In that master plan, an alum treatment was among the priorities for the lake.

“The master plan that was established by the lake restoration commission is being followed, being looked at and we’ve accomplished the first goal, which was simply to keep the lake open this summer,” Knapke told The Evening Leader.

“I think with the additional data that we can pick up off this study, plus all the information we are getting from Battelle’s report in the future, it put us in the much better situation to analyze what we need to do for the (2012) season.”

Throughout the summer, Knapke said he has been in constant contact with local residents regarding the lake’s condition. Residents also told him they appreciated the efforts of local, state and federal officials to help heal Grand Lake St. Marys.

“They just want to see it continue on,” Knapke told The Evening Leader. “I think the activities on the lake increased this summer, which was a positive. There were more people coming into the region again. There is a reason now, I would say hope, that we are making some progress. Perception wise, it’s been very positive, especially with the boat races that kind of finished the summer here on Grand Lake.”

Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Brian Miller also touted the results.

“I think it’s great,” Miller told The Evening Leader. “I mean the alum did more than what the consultants expected and what more could we ask for.”

In addition to alum, park officials have been busy removing rough fish and dredging the lake in an effort to remove as much phosphorus as possible from Grand Lake St. Marys. Miller said the combined efforts led to positive results.

“We need to look at many fronts,” Miller said. “We had alum, but we also increased dredging and had rough fish removal and a lot of good work in the watershed. This isn’t a one-piece puzzle, it’s a multi-pieced puzzle.”

Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally announced a decision on an alum treatment in early 2012 could be made in the next 30 to 45 days. Miller, who has been vocal about the need for a second alum application, said he backs the notion.

“As a local park manager and for the short-term, I hope we can get another alum application next spring,” Miller said, noting spring is the ideal time to apply the chemical. “I think we’ve also got to be mindful of budgets, too. I am very hopeful we can do another alum treatment and when you look at the original report by Tetra Tech, that’s what they said — it would be a multi-phased approach. I don’t want to lose any momentum that we have.”

One thing set for 2012 is the continuation of rough fish removal and increased dredging. Both activities, Miller said, are vital in helping keep the lake in check.

“We are making plans now to do just as much dredging as we did this year, if not more,” Miller said.

“We want to do more because we will be getting that new dredge, which will give us more capacity and we want to continue with the rough fish removal this winter.”

Lake Improvement Association President Tim Lovett called the results “amazing.” Lovett said it was proof that alum works and a 2012 application should be explored.

“I think it means that alum should be in the future, at least short-term,” Lovett told The Evening Leader. “I don’t think you would find anyone who says alum is a long-term solution, but it would buy us some time as we look at these other technologies to help clean up the lake.”

In other lake news, the state recently removed advisory signs posted at Ohio lakes, including Grand Lake St. Marys. The removal of the signs coincided with the end of the state’s monitoring program this year. The state typically ends its monitoring program when the recreational swimming season ends. On its website — OhioAlgaeInfo.com — the state encourages residents to refrain from drinking lake water and coming into contact with any algal blooms.

For much of the year, Grand Lake St. Marys was posted as a public health advisory under a revamped system developed by the state.  

As part of a public health advisory, visitors to the lake are encouraged to refrain from swimming and wading in the lake, water should not be swallowed and surface scum should be avoided.