Pilot Project Gets Green Light

CELINA — A pilot aeration study has been approved for Grand Lake St. Marys to use solar powered aeration equipment in two locations, with the goal of potentially lowering Celina’s water toxicity before water treatment and opening Second Beach at St. Marys.

Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Manager Milt Miller made the announcement during Saturday’s Lake Improvement Association meeting. Miller has long touted the need for increased aeration in the lake as a way to improve its water quality.

“Consistently scientists told us what we lack is aeration and circulation,” Miller said. “Once that is provided the lake responds very beautifully.”

He said the committee had been “haranguing” a company called Solar Bee to do the pilot because to run a traditional electric aerator costs $200 to $250 per month in maintenance plus the cost of running electricity to the site. A solar product would circumvent the need for electricity, driving down costs.

The aerator/circulator has a motor that sits on top of the water that will pull up water from the bottom of the lake. The mixing process means the “browns” will stay dominant over the blue and green algae at the top.

Should the lake respond positively during the study, the goal is to put two Solar Bees at Second Beach at St. Marys, one actually in the beach area and another in the lake at that site. The protective arc of rock at that beach makes it a good candidate for the aerators to be effective.

“There is a possibility that if it responds, a beach could be opened, and that would be huge,” Miller said.

The second part of the pilot will cluster four aerators around Celina’s water intake to see if they can lessen the toxicity of the water before the city pays to treat it.

While the cost of the Solar Bee is $59,000, the pilot phase is free and there is a rent-to-own possibility that could make the technology affordable long-term. Municipal sewer clients already use the device, so the technology has worked in other places, Miller said. A third party validator will measure the results of aeration.

Other good news on the science side, he said, is that the association is exploring gypsum as a topical additive to bind up the phosphorus in soil. A pilot around Lake Erie has early favorable results.

Terry Wissman reported gypsum has been used in Europe to capture nutrients, and synthetic gypsum is a byproduct of scrubbing flues in power plants. He said before synthetic gypsum could be used, however, there would have to be a study done to ensure there were no side effects.

Miller added that regardless of the outcome of aeration studies, members need to spread the word that fishing is great at the lake, and recent fish sampling show the fish are safe to eat.

“The crappie are biting, the bluegill are biting,” Miller said.

The manure spreading ban ended Friday, Wissman reported, with no complaints of spreading during the ban. He said the Department of Natural Resources did deny requests to haul during the last few weeks.

In other LIA news, the board reported moving the annual golf outing date to June 15 to avoid competing with Ohio State sports.

“You don’t have to be good — you can even cheat we don’t care,” member Stan Wilker said.

This year, there will be no auction at the golf outing. All money goes directly to lake improvement.

Members were encouraged to recruit for the association, expand out of their area for members, and contact people affected by that lake that they might not have thought of.

Members can join online at LakeImprovement.com, Dave Eyink said.

President Tim Lovett added that memberships meant more than money.

“It’s nice to have the $15 ... but I tell you what’s even more important — when you approach people in the political realm it’s important to tell them you represent 1,000 or 1,500 people. You’ve heard me say this before, that the interesting thing about politicians is, if they can’t do anything, they certainly can count votes,” Lovett said.

The new membership goal is 2,000 people.

Besides membership, the organization’s goals are to work with Grand Lake St. Marys Parks Service to make improvements to the water and facilities, and to promote the lake to the general public and groups.

For this year’s Lake Festival, LIA reported that they’ve canceled the ski shows, and will instead supplement the firework fund, as one sponsor, Pepsi, has pulled its funding.

A recent report showed the lake level is 4.5 inches above pool, because of extra moisture in last month. LIA is also looking at tree replacing some of the ash trees lost to ash borer.