Friday, March 30th, 2012
Getting ready for alum
Officials hope earlier treatment will stifle toxic algae blooms
By Nancy Allen
Crews move in equipment and supplies this week at the West Bank boat launch in p. . .
GRAND LAKE - Everything is blooming early this year, but officials hope an early attack on the lake's blue-green algae will halt its growth.
The $5 million whole lake alum application starts Monday. Local officials hope the treatment will stifle toxic algae blooms and visitors will return to Ohio's largest inland lake.
Aluminum sulfate (alum) deactivates phosphorous, the main nutrient feeding the lake's blue-green algae that has resulted in state water advisories and millions in lost tourism dollars the last three summers.
"We're most definitely excited," said Brian Miller, manager at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park. "We're getting out a lot earlier this year, hopefully we get the alum in soon enough to curtail advisories this year."
Miller noted, however, water temperatures have risen earlier this year, and algae grows better in warmer temperatures.
The alum ap-plication will start two months earlier than in 2011, when treatment was pared from treating the entire lake to just the 4,900-acre center over concerns that already high algae concentrations and low oxygen levels could cause a massive fish kill. Officials have said phosphorous levels in the lake's center were reduced 56 percent and 20-30 percent in untreated areas.
Alum barges and equipment are at the West Bank boat launch area.
HAB Aquatic Solutions, Lincoln, Neb., is again applying the alum, said Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Natural Resource.
Abut 3.5 million gallons of liquid aluminum sulfate and sodium aluminate at a two-to-one ratio will sprayed into the lake. Sodium aluminate is a buffering agent that keeps pH levels from fluctuating so fish aren't stressed. It also helps reduce possible damage to boat hulls.
Two alum application barges will work 16-hour days on two shifts.
"The target finish date is 30 days, but that will be dependent on weather conditions," McCorkle said, adding that excessive wind and storms could slow the process.
Oxygen and pH levels will be monitored throughout the application, she said.
Milt Miller, manager of the local Lake Restoration Commission, said he hopes this year's larger, more concentrated alum dose has a bigger impact. One of the LRC's goals this year is to have no water advisories for the lake.
"That (goal) came from when they analyzed the treatment last year and one of the scientists who is an authority on alum said, 'given how well it worked, if you do another treatment next year you could have an advisory-free lake,' " Miler said. "We took that to heart."
Miller said he hopes people come back and enjoy the lake like they did before the first advisory was issued in 2009 due to algae toxins.
Good fishing already has been reported on the lake this year, Brian Miller said.
"Bluegill fishing, catfish fishing and crappie fishing are all good," he said. "It's the best we've seen in a while."
Milt Miller said the LRC has not approached state officials about funding for an alum treatment next year. Various experts have said the lake will need consecutive alum treatments to make an impact on curtailing algae blooms.
"We have all said it is a short-term fix and we are certainly well aware of that," Milt Miller said. "What we are praying and hoping for is that the alum buys us time to put other initiatives in place including more dredging and gives our farmer friends time to install best management practices in the watershed and other things we are looking at."
Most of the phosphorous that runs off into the 13,500-acre lake comes from agriculture land, the largest land use in the 58,000-acre watershed.
Funding for this year's treatment is coming from about $1.6 million in Ohio EPA Water Pollution Control Loan funds leftover from last year's treatment. The additional funds will come from the Ohio Water Development Authority's Distressed Watershed Loan Program.
Brian Miller said the public can watch the activity at the West Bank staging area, but should keep their distance. The same goes for people in watercrafts on the lake when the application starts.
"These are very large barges and they cannot change direction very fast," he said. "You can stay and watch from a distance, but give them some room."
The state plans to treat half the lake and then move the staging area to behind the state park office on the lake's northeast side to treat the other half, unless logistics cannot be worked out, he said.