Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Poor water quality blamed for loss of Grand Lake event
By William Kincaid
An EPA warning of high toxin levels in Grand Lake has forced cancellation of the Celina Lakeshore Triathlon/Duathlon scheduled for July 12 along the shores of Grand Lake.
"It was canceled because of the water quality," Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue recently told the newspaper.
The event, which LaRue said had attracted participants from all over, was organized by Roger Bowersock of Rocketship Sports Inc., a non-profit amateur sports corporation in Greenville.
"It stinks because it was going to be a really nice event for the lake and Mercer County and Auglaize County," Bowersock said this morning.
On the verge of Memorial Day weekend, the Ohio EPA, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health issued a warning that levels of the toxin "microcystin" produced by the blue green algae in the lake were high enough to warrant warnings about swimming, jet skiing and water skiing - activities that might result in ingesting water. Lake water could cause skin rashes, and if ingested, could cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. While not as harmful to humans, the microcystin toxin seems to be very deadly to small animals, such as dogs, that ingest the water, the EPA reported.
In the next 45 days, the triathlon entries dropped from 350 to 30, with participants wanting their money back, after local TV stations broadcast the story, Bowersock said.
Originally, people from as far away as Indianapolis, Detroit and Cleveland were scheduled to come until the story broke. Only local people still wanted to participate, Bowersock said.
"It wasn't going to be big enough to make it worthwhile," Bowersock said.
The event's insurance company was also wary of coverage, after the news, Bowersock said.
"They were very concerned," he said.
Asked if the swimming event could be moved elsewhere, such as a pool, Bowersock said that wasn't an option.
"The lake is obviously a big draw.Having it down at the lake is very important because it makes it a very important event," he said.
"We're definitely going to do it next year," Bowersock explained, adding that Mercer Health is still the primary sponsor.
The Celina triathlon was to include a grueling 1,000-meter swim in Grand Lake, a 22-mile bike ride and a 4-mile run. A duathlon was also originally scheduled for those who didn't want to canoe or swim.
"He (Bowersock) has done many of these in different areas," LaRue said, adding that Bowersock was attracted to the lake because of the non-confined swimming opportunity, which usually takes place in a pool.
The Celina event was to be a return to the area after an absence of more than 20 years. Organizers felt the competition could have drawn huge crowds. "There used to be a Celina triathlon back in the late '80s during the (Celina) Lake Festival," Bowersock had said.
Rocketship Sports of Greenville had originally partnered with Active.com, a Web-based company that provides microchip technology to record accurate race times, Bowersock said in an interview earlier this year.
The idea was abandoned then brought back for a one-year stint in 1997 at Eastview Park, he had said.
However, it fizzled again after that, Bowersock had said.
He had hoped the triathlons/duathlons again would become annual affairs.