Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Funds sought for study
Celina renewable energy center
By Nancy Allen
Kent Bryan, the city of Celina's planning and community development director, said there is much misinformation and misunderstanding about the algae toxin in Grand Lake.
He said he wants to go after a research grant that he hopes could clear the air.
Since the state first announced the presence of the toxin just prior to the Memorial Day weekend, the city has been required to have the lake's water tested to determine the toxin levels. This is so the Ohio EPA can make the information available to the public who want to use the lake recreationally. The lake also is the city's sole source of drinking water and tests have continued to show the toxin is not present in drinking water.
To measure toxin levels, the algae cells are broken open to release the toxin by blasting open the cell walls with a device called an ultrasonificator. Many of those readings have been well above the 20 parts per billion threshold set by the World Health Organization for recreational use.
During the last six weeks the city has been measuring the free toxin levels in the lake water, that is the levels already present in the lake water without blasting the algae cells apart to release the toxin. Those readings have ranged from 1.5 parts per billion to 13.2 parts per billion.
Bryan fears the way the EPA requires the toxin levels to be tested is not a true indication of the toxin in the water.
"We're running into people who think if they get into the water, when it touches your skin, it's at those levels," Bryan said. "We're finding when we test the algae, the majority of the toxin is contained within the cell."
Bryan said the EPA's argument is if you swallow the lake water containing algae, stomach acid could rupture the algae cells and release the toxin and make people sick.
"But you'd have to take in a huge amount of water for it to be harmful and who's going to do that."
The toxin can cause skin rashes, and nausea, diarrhea and vomiting if ingested. It also can cause weakness or dizziness, breathing difficulty and convulsions, information from the Ohio EPA states. It is particularly deadly to small animals such as dogs, the EPA states.
Scientists studying blue-green algae toxins have said they do not know what triggers blue-green algae to release the toxin some times and not others. They do know that the algae is fed by excess nutrients and that the more nutrients there are, the more algae is produced and the greater the likelihood the toxin is present.
Bryan said he hopes to apply for a research grant that shows the benefits of harvesting the algae as a way to perhaps lower toxin levels and looks at the amount of nutrients already in the sediment at the lake's bottom as a way to emphasize the importance of dredging.