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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

State seeks funds for large-scale alum treatment

By Nancy Allen
GRAND LAKE - The state is moving forward with plans to do a large-scale alum treatment on Grand Lake this year to combat the lake's toxic algae blooms.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is applying for up to $5 million from the Ohio EPA's Water Pollution Control Loan Fund to pay for the treatment. Alum is a chemical that robs the lake's toxin-producing algae of phosphorous, its main food source.
The details and cost estimates will be presented during a public meeting March 21 at Wright State University-Lake Campus. The meeting and public participation are requirements of the loan application process. A brief question and answer period will follow the presentation.
Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA spokeswoman, said ODNR intends to apply for the loan funds with a request for principal forgiveness, which if approved, means the loan would not need to be paid back. The loans are used to provide funds for water quality improvement projects.
"They would potentially qualify for principal forgiveness because there is an immediate need and a serious public health issue that has to be addressed," Pierce said.
Last summer's toxic algae blooms on the lake resulted in the state warning people not to touch the water, take boats on it or eat fish from it. The toxins were blamed for sickening humans and animals and devastating local tourism.
Previous estimates for a whole lake alum treatment were $8 million to $10 million. Newly-appointed Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally has said the size of any large-scale treatment will depend on the amount of funding available.
ODNR spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans this morning said it is her understanding that it is likely the loan money will be secured. State officials do not yet know how many acres the $5 million would treat. Evans said results of a second alum test set for this spring once the lake ice melts should help answer that question.
The second test also will help determine dosage amounts for a large-scale treatment. The state's first alum study done last summer did not produce the results officials hoped for but produced enough data that a second study was recommended. The next test will use a combination of liquid and granular alum and a pretreatment of hydrogen peroxide to help the alum work better, state officials have said.
"We expect the next demonstration project will give us information on if pretreatment with hydrogen peroxide makes the alum more effective," Evans said. "We need that information before we can begin a wide-scale treatment."
Grand Lake is one of the state's most polluted bodies of water, largely because of runoff of phosphorous in manure and fertilizer from nearby farms. Farmland makes up more than 80 percent of the acreage in its watershed.

If you go:
What: Meeting on large-scale alum treatment on Grand Lake
When: March 21, 6 p.m.
Where: Wright State University-Lake Campus' Dicke Hall
For more info: Contact Ohio EPA Public Involvement Coordinator Darla Peelle at 614-644-2160 or at
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