LIA Warns of Spike in Toxins

By: 
JENNA GILBERT
Staff Writer

In 2019, Grand Lake St. Marys has witnessed some of the lowest levels of microcystin toxins in seven to eight years but according to Lake Improvement Association President Nick Rentz, the lake isn’t out of the woods yet as the fall is known for witnessing a spike in toxin levels. The key this year will be how high that spike is compared to previous years.

This spike happens every year and for every lake with an algal bloom, Rentz said. It isn’t unusual and the cause is because of an increase in rain and.

“What we’re looking for is are those higher numbers lower than the previous year,” he said. “That’s where we’re really gauging success here. If this thing spikes to 50 or 60 [ppm], was it 70 [ppm] last year? We have to compare to the previous years to see if we’re making good headway.”

While Grand Lake is experiencing what is considered low levels of microcystin toxins this year, the levels are still too high to remove the “no contact” signs around the lake despite positive initial readings at West Beach and even throughout the lake at varying times.

The purpose of bringing the spike to everyone’s attention at Saturday’s monthly meeting was to inform everyone that a spike may not mean bad news for the lake. The deciding factor will come from how it compares to previous years.

What dominated a majority of the conversation for the remainder of the meeting was West Beach and the initial results of three tests taken by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) two weeks ago that showed microcystin levels low enough to remove the “no contact” signs for that area. According to Dave Faler — park manager for Grand Lake St. Marys State Park — the first test resulted in microcystin levels low enough to change the red “no contact” signs to orange “warning” sign. The second and third tests resulted in levels low enough that all signage could be removed.

Faler noted that one reason the signs haven’t been removed is because that was the first set of data collected and officials wanted to be positive that there was nothing influencing those results at that moment to ensure a safe swimming for patrons.

“We don’t want to open this and not know how everything is working,” Faler said.

Rentz seconded the notion, adding that those working on the project want to know what the levels look like in times of high flow, a dry spell and when there are high winds on the lake.

They also want to know if the aerators are what is causing the noticeably low levels or if there was something else influencing those results at that time. Both men agreed that more data needs to be collected before any signage is replaced or removed from the new beach.

With that said, Faler said he reached back out to the Ohio EPA and they agreed to bring a device that will work a lot like the probe Dr. Stephen Jacquemin will use to collect data about the microcystin levels in the lake with immediate results.

The EPA device, however, stays in the water and every 30 minutes takes a reading. That data is stored on the device’s onboard memory drive and will be collected by the EPA every one to two weeks.

The device is already installed at West Beach and a representative will come out this week sometime and collect the first set of readings.
Continuing with the theme of being on top of the algae in West Beach, Faler said four more aerators are going to be installed in a shallower area of the water.

Rentz noted that it is being done to not only help with what is hopefully leading to such low microcystin levels but it is also to assist with diffusing some of the areas that were unable to be dredged by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODRN). Showing an aerial shot of the beach that was taken recently, Rentz showed that the area’s surrounding the aerators was noticeable clearer than areas farther out.

Overall, the science project was viewed to be working as the organization had hoped and upon collection of more data, the beach may be open to the public next year with either orange signs or no signs put at the beach.

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