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Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Students place straw to destroy toxic algae

By Nancy Allen

Wright State University graduate students Anthony DiMuccio, Nathan Dronen and Br. . .

GRAND LAKE - Seven graduate students from Wright State University assembled 100 barley straw bundles and placed them in channels at Behm's Landing during the weekend.
As the straw rots, it will release enzymes that kill toxic blue-green algae. The method already has been proven in the channel.
Pieces of straw flew through the air Saturday, getting stuck on students' hair and clothing as they stuffed the straw into mesh bundles.
"It's for a class called Project Controls and Evaluation Techniques being taught at the main campus," said class leader Alan Grimm, whose family owns a real estate business and Behm's restaurant at the landing.
  Four years ago the Lake Improvement Association (LIA) found success in putting barley straw in channels to lessen algae blooms. LIA member Jeff Vossler, who has a home at Behm's Landing, has continued the project but found it to be very labor intensive.
Grimm thought it would make a good class assignment and made the necessary arrangements.
"Barley straw is used in ponds a lot as a natural algaecide," Vossler said.
Aeration systems, also installed by the landing residents, have increased the effectiveness of the barley straw, Vossler said. The extra oxygen speeds up the decomposition process.
  Originally from California, Grimm moved to live with his stepfather, the late Bob Grimm, and his mother, Chris Grimm, in 2008. He enrolled at the Lake Campus while helping to take care of his ailing stepfather.
Grimm witnessed the toxic algae blooms on the lake the past two summers and the economic hardship it caused the tourism industry. He hopes the project helps his family's businesses, along with improving the lake for others.
  "It will be great to have a lake that doesn't have a green and blue beer head on it," he said, referring to last summer's freakish new algae. "You could see it break up when it hit the line of barley straw and aerators."
  Grimm noted the very development from which his family has made a living has caused some of the problems. Homes and businesses have replaced areas that once had wetlands, grass and trees, which lessen runoff of nutrients that feed the algae.
Studies show most of the phosphorous runoff that enters the lake comes from farmland, the largest land use in the watershed. As a result of last summer's toxic algae blooms that sickened humans and animals, new manure laws were imposed on the roughly 300 livestock farmers in the watershed. The rules are meant to lessen phosphorous runoff.
  "The problem is not just the farmers, it's the development," Grimm said. "If we can replace the wetlands and plants that development took and manage the waste from farms, we'll have a cleaner lake."
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