Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
By William Kincaid
Grand Lake's bane could become boon to economy
  The blue-green algae in Grand Lake could one day be transformed into oil, a nutritional supplement and possibly plastic, Celina Community Development and Planning Director Kent Bryan says.
Wright State University-Lake Campus, with the city of Celina as a collaborator, hopes to explore these possibilities if it gets a grant through Ohio's Third Frontier program.
A $3 million grant application will be sent to the state by Jan. 9, Bryan told city council members during a Monday night meeting.
"They have agreed to be the lead applicant," Bryan said of the Lake Campus.
Ultimately, the Lake Campus wants to experiment with converting blue-green algae into profitable bio-products. If all goes as planned, the city's water treatment plant could one day be equipped with machinery to remove the algae from incoming water.  
"The more we progress, the more we think there is an opportunity here," Bryan said, adding the city and Lake Campus have been researching the topic for some months now. "This is coming together fairly quickly."
The grant requires 100 percent matching funds. If successful, Lake Campus and Celina would have to decide how to fund such money and maybe even reduce the $3 million initial request, Bryan said.
Also, local private businesses are encouraged to be involved with the collaboration, he said.
The proposed three-year program would use the city's existing water treatment plant. Added equipment in the front of the plant would removed algae from 4 million gallons of water a day.
Once removed and dried, the algae's protein and fat content would be separated and used to possibly create oil, plastics and nutritional supplements. Bryan suggested algae-derived biodiesel could be used to run the city's vehicles.
The filtered water would be returned to the lake.
"I think this is a tremendous opportunity," councilman Bill Sell said.
Bryan said he has talked with two local businesses, Mercer Landmark and Versa-Pak. Mercer Landmark currently extracts oil from soybeans, quite similar to what the city may one day do with algae. Also, Versa-Pak manufactures plastic materials.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had some reduction (of algae in Grand Lake) and turned it into something productive," Bryan said.
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