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Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Alum plans change as rains degrade lake

By Shelley Grieshop
GRAND LAKE - Heavy rains in late winter and early spring have further degraded Grand Lake's water quality and prompted state officials to scale back the upcoming alum treatment.
Instead of using a low dose of alum sulfate across the entire 13,500-acre lake, a more concentrated treatment will focus on only 4,900 acres in the center of the lake. This area has the highest level of phosphorus, which has been washed off the mostly agricultural land surrounding the lake and into its water.
The alum treatment, which deactivates phosphorus, has been pushed back from mid-May to the first week of June.
Tim Lovett, president of the local Lake Improvement Association, said recent tests showed the lake's water quality is already worse than it's been in the past. Chlorophyll levels are extremely high, he said.
"There's more (blue-green) algae in the lake this year. The rain has brought in more nutrients than last year," he said.
Phosphorus in manure and fertilizers feeds blue-green algae, and its harmful blooms plagued the lake last year and negatively impacted area businesses and tourism.
The excess precipitation quickly changed the chemistry of the lake, said Milt Miller, president of the Lake Development Corporation.
"We have to follow the science," he said. "This is the better way to go. No one could have anticipated the early rains that we've had."
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is funding the alum treatment through a $5 million loan from the Ohio EPA Water Pollution Control Loan Fund. The money does not need to be repaid.
Officials believe the amended treatment strategy will be cheaper - about $3.4 million less. The project is expected to be rebid in the next few weeks since the amount of alum needed has decreased.
Lovett said he had high hopes for the whole-lake treatment but understands the need for the revision.
"At the end of the day, it's not going to be what we wanted," he said, adding you can't fight Mother Nature.
Tom Knapke, facilitator for the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission, also expressed his disappointment.
"While we are disappointed that we cannot complete the entire alum treatment as originally designed, Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission members are encouraged by the adjusted alum application being implemented yet this spring," Knapke said.
Alum treatment is just one of several steps officials are taking to improve the lake's water quality. Also in the overall plan is dredging, rough fish removal, treatment trains in lake tributaries and other measures.
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