Local officials watching Wabash River for Grand Lake algae

Authored by Jim Langham on Jul 23, 2010

Just when southern Adams County officials were trying to solve one problem that could pollute the Wabash River basin, another of even greater size popped up on the horizon.
An extremely dangerous algae bloom that could endanger not only animal but also human life was discovered in the waters of Grand Lake St. Marys at Celina.
Officials have been grappling for several months about a possible mega-dairy farm considering locating near the Wabash River along the Jay-Adams County line, close to Bear Creek Farms.
Geneva town manager Doug Milligan said that there is “great concern” at this time about the possibility of toxic algae bloom from Grand Lake St. Marys seeping into the Wabash River.
“Grand Lake overflows into Beaver Creek and Beaver Creek flows into the Wabash River,” said Milligan. “If any of that toxic lake water would flow through that water system, we would have a real problem on our hands.”
Earlier this month, concerns about toxic algae blooms in Ohio’s largest inland lake became a reality when it was confirmed that run-off from local farms had created an algae bloom containing nerve toxins harmful to people’s lungs and livers.
It estimated that in the 58,000 Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, there are at least 300 livestock farms, but only 15 are large enough to be required to answer to certain federal guidelines. The other 285 are considered to be too small.
“We are continuing to monitor closely the major pollution problems at Grand Lake. We are concerned about this problem as the Grand Lake overflow is on the west side of the lake, directly into Beaver Creek, which then flows into the Wabash River north of Fort Recovery,” said Milligan.
“Ultimately, polluted Grand Lake water could end up flowing into the Wabash River, through Jay County/New Cordyon, near the proposed Rooijakkers CAFO site, through the wetlands in southern Adams County and on across the state of Indiana,” continued Milligan.
Milligan said on Thursday that officials from the Upper Wabash River Basin Commission in Bluffton are monitoring the situation very closely as they test the water on a regular basis.
Attempts to contact Robert Winebrinner, of the commission, were not successful on Thursday afternoon.
“If this algae were to get loose into the river, the implications of what could happen are unbelievable,” said Milligan. “It could affect the wetlands, and certainly industry such as Red Gold, not to mention all of the other areas locally that are affected by the river.”
Also on Thursday, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to spend $1 million through a program that will pay lake-area farmers to cut the inflow of manure and fertilizers that run off fields during storms, according to the Columbus-Dispatch newspaper.
“The manure and fertilizers feed cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, which have spread across the 13,000-acre lake this summer and last. Toxins that the algae produce have grown so concentrated that last week that the state warned people not to touch the water, take boats on the lake or eat any fish caught there,’” stated the newspaper.
The paper also noted that tests last week revealed microcystin at a level 100 times higher than a World Health Organization safety standard for swimmers.
Earlier this week, the Celina Daily Standard noted that Mercer County commissioners had been awarded a $484,000 grant from the Ohio EPA to help put a $1 million system in place to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the lake.
The system would be installed in Prairie Creek on the south side of the lake in late summer or early fall, said the paper.
The phosphorus enters the lake water through manure and fertilizer, which feeds the blue-green algae that is producing the heavy toxin blooms in the lake.
“All of us downstream from the lake are urging officials who can affect this situation to act on it as soon as possible before it becomes a much larger problem that affect all of us,” said Milligan.

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