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Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Lawsuit accusing farmers ongoing

Grand Lake

By Nancy Allen
GRAND LAKE - A class action lawsuit blaming local farmers for Grand Lake's poor water quality may be moving forward.
Two meetings were held in Celina on Tuesday for invited lake business owners and residents who want to join the lawsuit. No information was available on how many attended.
The Daily Standard obtained a copy of the letter from attorneys at the Middleton Firm, LLC, of Savannah, Ga., that invited existing clients to the first meeting and prospective clients to the second.
The possible legal action first became public knowledge late last year when Buzz Goodwin, owner of Bayview Sun and Snow, said several business owners were planning the lawsuit and firms from Georgia, Missouri and Indiana would jointly pursue it. He said those involved blame watershed farmers for polluting the lake with manure. Phosphorus in the manure feeds toxic algae which has led to water advisories since 2009.
Goodwin on Wednesday declined comment. Steve Klosterman, owner of Klosterman Development, attended the meetings and said he was instructed by legal council not to comment. He referred questions to attorney Richard Middleton.
Phone messages seeking comment from Middleton and Speer Law Firm, of Missouri, were not returned as of press time today.
An official with the farmer-led Ag Solutions group said the lawsuit is a bad idea. The group formed this year to help lake watershed farmers find solutions to manage their manure cost effectively.
"I think a lawsuit like that would tear our community apart," said Jim Keller, president of the Marion Community Development Organization, which is facilitating Ag Solutions. "The LRC and the LIA have come together and with our group are working toward good solutions."
Tom Knapke, facilitator of the Lake Restoration Commission, said the LRC is opposed to the lawsuit. The LRC is a coalition of local, government and private entities that has raised more than $800,000 to help restore the lake through scientific study and water cleaning equipment.
Many lake area businesses lost substantial revenue the last two summers due to the state-issued advisories against swimming, fishing and boating. Two marinas have closed in recent years and some businesses have cut staff.
The lake is under a public health advisory due to algae toxins that advises against swimming in or swallowing the water. Last week the state confirmed it is checking into a human illness reported in July to determine if it was caused by exposure to the lake's algae toxins.
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