Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grand Lake, Ohio - Update

Governor unveils lake plan: Strickland notes solution will take a long time
Saturday, 31 July 2010

By Mike Burkholder

Staff Writer

CELINA — In what turned into a contentious news conference, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland unveiled a plan Friday to help address the ailing water of Grand Lake St. Marys.
Strickland was joined during the news conference by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Chris Korleski, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Sean Logan, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Robert Boggs and Ohio Department of Health Director Alvin D. Jackson.

The visit was Strickland’s first to the region since an algae bloom in June sparked a new water quality advisory for the lake, which has since been upgraded to encourage residents to avoid boating or eating fish caught in Grand Lake St. Marys.
“For many years, this community has watched a beautiful natural resource deteriorate,” Strickland said during his opening remarks. “Businesses have struggled, homes have lost value and families have lost the opportunity to create memories together.”
Strickland wasted no time in describing the dire situation of the lake. The governor admitted the water is toxic. He also stressed the importance of adhering to the current water advisory.
“At this time, the lake is not healthy for humans or animals to enjoy,” Strickland said. “There are toxins in this water right now that could be dangerous to your health and could damage your neurological system. We urge common sense and caution as we continue to warn residents and visitors about the health risks of the toxins in this water. It is difficult to say and even more difficult to hear, but please do not go in or on this lake at any time.”
Strickland said the lake’s current situation did not happen overnight, noting it took years of degradation.
“This crisis has been generations in the making and it will take all of us and future generations working together to try and restore this lake and community to health and prosperity,” Strickland said.
Korleski and Logan each revealed a portion of the plan regarding the two main sources for the blooms — internal and external loading.
Korleski warned that despite the outcry for immediate action, there is no solution that can fix the lake overnight.
“There is no silver bullet, there is no magic wand, there is nothing that we can do that we are aware of to turn this situation around quickly,” Korleski said. “This has been years in the making, it’s not going to be quick and not going to be easy.
“But is it hopeless,” he said, “I’m not convinced that it’s hopeless and we are going to work to say the least, very aggressively, to see if we can turn this lake around.”
Korleski said officials plan to combat internal loading — the amount of phosphorous currently in the lake — by instituting a series of pilot projects.
Among the first is a pilot project using alum treatments in yet to be identified areas in the 20 to 40 acre range. The target date for the pilot alum treatments is September, with a price tag of $250,000 to be paid via the Ohio EPA and ODNR. Korleski said while the treatments have been successful in other lakes across the world, alum has never been tested on a lake the size of Grand Lake St. Marys.
“When you add alum you have to monitor it very carefully because if you don’t properly monitor it you can end up screwing up the pH in the lake, which can have an overall negative impact on the lake,” Korleski said. “You have to be very careful.”
Korleski said if successful, the entire lake could see an alum application. That treatment would cost $5 to $10 million.
“That’s where we would want to go,” Korleski said. “I think it’s safe to say that we will try to leave no stone unturned.”
The second pilot project has to do with attempting to replace the cyanobacteria with non-harmful algae called diatoms that are capable of being harvested for energy generation purposes. Korleski described the method as “algae flipping.”
“A diatom is a normal, healthy algae that doesn’t damage the lake,” Korleski said. “The idea is if we can encourage them to grow, and they begin to use the nutrients, if we are creating an environment that is very condusive for the diatoms, then they will out compete the cyanobacteria and thereby reduce the population of cyanobacteria. Again, this has never been tested, to our knowledge, in the United States, certainly
See LAKE, 9A
it hasn’t been tested on a lake of this size.”
Dredging the entire lake, Korleski said, is cost prohibitive. Doing so would cost more than $100 million.
Instead, he said specific areas could be targeted to reduce the amount of sediment pouring into the lake.
“We do think dredging can be employed on a spot basis,” Korleski said. “Primarily we would like to employ dredging on area where feeder streams are coming into the larger body of water because that is where in large part, you are getting accumulation of phosphorous carrying sediment. If you can scoop that out at the source, you can minimize the amount of phosphorous that’s getting into the internal loading cycle.”
Other actions include the creation of wetlands as well as studying the feasibility of adding AiryGators around the lake. The devices help increase oxygen levels in the lake.
Korleski also pleaded with residents to stay out of the water until the situation is resolved.
“We understand the economic impact this is having on the community,” Korleski said. “We have to be very, very, very protective of public health. It is our belief that there are levels of toxins in this lake that can be very harmful to your health.”
Logan said external loading, which includes phosphorous introduced into the lake via agriculture run-off, septic systems and lawn fertilizers, is an issue in the watershed.
To combat the issue, Logan said new rules outlining the application of manure to frozen ground as well as requiring manure nutrient management plans will be instituted.
“These are some items that have been talked about for a number of years,” Logan said of the management plans. “That is where we can have the biggest bang for our buck.”
Logan explained the new regulations will be phased in during the next few months.
During the question and answer session, members of the public interjected while the officials were addressing the media. Comments ranged from why no action is being taken immediately to help the businesses impacted by the advisory to if the toxins pose health risks by simply breathing in the air surrounding the lake.
Laura Jenkins, the wife of Dan Jenkins who recently fell ill and it is believed there is a link to the toxins found in the lake, addressed Strickland regarding what can be done to help prevent human illnesses from the lake.
Strickland said he would work with the Jenkins family to make sure they receive the proper medical treatment and care needed during Dan Jenkins’ recovery.
Following the news conference, Strickland spoke with the Jenkins family in private.
“We do know there have been a number of pets that have died,” Strickland said. “There is no scientific link that we can point to but it is very likely that the lake water was the result of their deaths. So that’s why we are so terribly concerned. We understand the significance of saying please have no contact with the water. The last thing any of us would like to see happen would be another individual like Mr. Jenkins, become sick as a result of the contact with this water. That must be the primary concern.”
Jackson addressed concerns regarding potential health risks associated with the toxins found in the lake. Jackson warned against coming into contact with the water as well as any spray from the lake.
“What we know is that the liver toxins and the neurotoxins are some of the most potent toxins known and there are currently no antidotes,” Jackson said. “Right now, what we do know is there is no vapor associated with this toxin. However, it is associated with an aerosol. So that if you disturb the water, the toxin can be in the droplets of the water and consequently you can then inhale those droplets or take them in through the mouth. This is why we are strongly emphasizing no contact with the water because of those health risks and no known antitoxins and some of the most potent toxins known.”
Jackson said state officials are working on keeping the public aware of all health issues associated with the toxins found in the lake.
Jackson said rashes and blisters can occur from contact with the water. If a person comes into contact with the water, Jackson recommended the affect area be washed as soon as possible.
“If an aerosol, through a wave or any boat contact, that would create an aerosol and you can breath that in,” Jackson said of breathing in toxins from the water. “If you breath in those toxins in high enough numbers, you can get eye, ear, nose irritation and you can get asthma-like symptoms.”
Jackson said swallowing lake water can cause severe gastrointestinal problems including nausea and vomiting. The toxins also can cause liver toxicity, kidney toxicity and abdominal pain.
“You can have some memory problems, you can be dizzy, blurred vision,” Jackson said of possible neurological issues associated with coming into contact lake water. “This is why we strongly, I repeat, strongly emphasizing no contact and avoid contact with water.”
Jackson said current standards for the toxins are based on adult standards. There are no children standards.
“This is why we really want to be more conservative in terms of putting out those advisories,” Jackson said. “I can assure you that I have been in contact with Centers for Disease Control and many of the other state health officials, at least 13 of them, who are having some of the problems as we are having here. We are really pushing for coming up with some national standards to address these kinds of issues. Hopefully, before the end of the year, or much sooner, we will have some.”

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