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The Daily



09-25-03: Interest high for improving water quality


It was standing room only Wednesday night at the Celina Moose Lodge where about 90 people attended a meeting to discuss how to improve the water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys.
A community-based approach involving all types of citizens from all walks of life is the best way to do it, meeting leaders said.
The gathering, billed as a lake restoration meeting, was headed by Bill Ringo, Celina, and Vic Woodall, St. Marys, both members of the nonprofit Lake Improvement Association.
“No one has all the ans-wers,” Woodall told the crowd. “It will be a long hard battle, but we can improve the condition of the lake.”
Ringo began with a 30-minute presentation on existing water quality data that he gathered from the Ohio EPA, OSU Extension and local watershed groups. Seventeen large sheets of paper containing the handwritten information were taped to two walls at the lodge.

The data touched on the amount of nutrients from manure that often gets into the lake from farm field runoff. Mercer County has the highest concentration of livestock of any county in the state. There are some 203,900 cattle, milk cows and hogs in the watershed, statistics show. Ringo also said there is not enough farmland on which to properly spread the manure.
The prevention of sediment and the nutrients attached to the sediment from entering the lake should be the group’s No. 1 priority, Ringo said.
Woodall said the only way to improve the lake’s water quality is to improve the quality of the water coming into the lake. This can be done by implementing conservation methods such as planting grass-covered filter strips along creeks and streams that drain into the lake and grassed waterways through farm fields that decrease soil erosion, he said.
“We hope to get politicians attention through mailings and other ways,” Woodall said. “We have a lot of votes, folks, and we want to make that known to the politicians.”
Woodall said there are members of the group who have volunteered to help research. Several committees also were set up during the meeting, including research/technical data, publicity/communications, legal, sewer plants and others.
Mercer County Commissioner Jim Zehringer and Chickasaw resident Ron Puthoff, a consultant known for his grant writing abilities, volunteered to chair the committee that will look at concerns at the sewer plants that serve small housing subdivisions in the county, such as at Northwood along Ohio 703 where water from the plant drains into the lake.
The creation of an enforcement committee charged with looking at whether existing local, state and federal pollution laws are being enforced properly also was suggested.
The group still is trying to decide whether or not it will stay under the umbrella of the LIA or become its own entity. Another meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Moose.
The LIA more recently has become interested in lake water quality issues. The group traditionally was associated with raising funds for projects such as building shelter houses and picnic tables around the lake.
Woodall said organizers decided to start the new group because they are not satisfied with the progress of the existing watershed groups — the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Project that formed in 1999 and the Wabash Watershed Alliance that developed in 2001.
Water quality testing in 1999 showed the Wabash River Watershed in Mercer and Darke counties and the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed in Mercer and Auglaize counties had the most degraded water quality of any in the state of Ohio. Most sections were ranked poor while the rest were ranked fair. There were no areas ranked good.
The 71,862-acre Grand Lake watershed, which drains into the lake, is one of the most polluted in the state, the water quality testing also showed.
In the lake, blue green algae flourishes and chokes off oxygen for fish and other aquatic animals. The algae blooms when there are high amounts of nutrients that come from manure runoff from farm fields, agricultural and lawn fertilizers, human waste that leaks from failing private septic systems and laundry and dish soap.
What the group is trying to do boils down to stewardship, Woodall said when asked by someone in the crowd to define the group’s goal.
“Stewardship is people who accept the responsibility of doing things right,” he said. “All we have to accomplish is to do things right and if we do things right, the lake will be preserved.”


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