By Nancy Allen
Not only can poor water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys adversely affect tourism and lake businesses, but it is a health concern because the lake is the sole source of drinking water for the city of Celina.
Tom Rampe, a member of the grassroots Lake Restoration Committee, which met Monday night at the Celina Moose Lodge, wondered why more people in Celina are not concerned about this.
Some LRC members marveled at the low number of people from Celina who attend their meetings.
"Why aren't these people out in force from Celina," said south side lake resident Belinda Froning, gesturing around the room. "They drink this water. You'd think they would be here."
Jim Dabbelt, one of the few Celina residents who regularly attends the meetings, said it is because they either don't understand or they don't care because they feel it doesn't concern them. "I am really amazed at the number of people who really don't care," Dabbelt said. "I think we should take some of this sludge lake water and put it in a jar and put it up in some of the banks or wherever so people can see what they are drinking."
The LRC is a grassroots group formed just more than a year ago to help improve the water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys and the watershed area that rains into it. Most of the group's work so far has involved outreach and education, but the LRC also has made available incentive payments for farmers to install grass filter strips that keep sediment and nutrients out of the lake. They also have put pressure on Mercer County Health Department officials to create a Home Sewage Treatment System to tackle the problem of failing private septic systems that pollute the lake.
The city of Celina is under findings and orders from the Ohio EPA to lower the trihalomethane (THM) levels in the city's drinking water. Because the lake contains so much organic material, the city has to use large quantities of chlorine to treat the water. THMs are the byproduct of that treatment process and are shown in studies to cause cancer in humans. The city is researching building a new water treatment plant to solve the problem, which could cost several million dollars.
Ideally, decreasing the amount of organic material in the lake would lessen the need for chlorine treatment and lower THM levels. Organic materials in the lake include manure runoff from farmland, human waste from failed septic systems, and blue-green algae.
One LRC member said the city should educate its residents using plain language so they understand how a cleaner lake could improve their health.
"If the people of Celina were told 'hey, this lake is so dirty that it can't be treated properly and safely and this water can kill you,' then maybe they would be here," said LRC member Dave Meyer.
LRC Chairman Bill Ringo said the more unified all the lake communities are about cleaning up the lake, the more likely grants will be approved for that purpose.
The LRC meetings are held at the Celina Moose Lodge at 7:30 p.m. the third Monday of each month.