|LIA Briefed On Pilot Project|
|Monday, 09 August 2010|
|By MIKE BURKHOLDER|
CELINA — A standing-room only crowd packed the Celina Moose Saturday morning to hear about a pilot project that if successful, could help rid the lake of harmful algae. Ross Youngs, CEO of Algaeventure, briefed members of the Lake Improvement Association regarding the company’s pilot project to turn harmful cyanobacteria that is found in the lake into a nonthreatening species. Youngs said the plan is to turn the cyanobacteria into diatoms, which do not produce harmful toxins. The harmless algae would then be harvested for use in biofuels and other products.
“What we are talking about ultimately is flipping the toxic algae to beneficial algae,” Youngs said. “The beneficial algae are diatoms.”
Youngs said if the environment is conducive, diatoms will out-compete cyanobacteria in a given body of water. In order to thrive, diatoms need silica for food.
“They are a major contributor to the food web,” Youngs said of diatoms. “Cyanobacteria are on the other end. They produce toxins to stop from being eaten. Diatoms survive because they are prolific.”
Youngs said as the lake’s temperature increased, the cyanobacteria started to thrive. Once the water temperature cools, the diatoms and harmless green algae will dominate. The presence of its food sources, Youngs said, also will help diatoms return to dominance.
“When you have silica present in the water that is available for the diatoms, they will dominate any culture,” Youngs said. “That’s our focus. The toxic blooms themselves come from cyanobacteria. There are no fresh water toxic blooms of diatoms.”
Youngs said each type of algae will thrive depending upon which conditions are present. For cyanobacteria, the present conditions of the lake are feeding its growth.
“Cyanobacteria love the high nutrients, they love the warm weather and they love stagnant water,” Youngs said. “So essentially we’ve got a great growth situation out there. Diatoms love silica. They will grow in the warmer temperatures, they will grow with nutrients and grow with fairly low nutrients. There are so many species of diatoms, that they go through succession.”
As part of their program, Algaeventure plans to partition off a 2.5 acre portion of the lake to test the feasibility of flipping the algae to diatoms via the introduction of silica or sand. Youngs said if silica is in the water column and available, diatoms will dominate.
“The reality is what we are trying to do hasn’t been done anywhere near this scale and that’s the challenge,” Youngs said.
By the end of August, Youngs said officials plan to treat a portion of the lake near Celina in an effort to flip it. Adding silica to the lake, Youngs said, would pose little risk to the health of Grand Lake St. Marys.
“The risks are minimal,” Youngs said. “People don’t realize this but silica is the No. 2 most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It’s everywhere.”
During the next few months, Youngs said he plans to look at strategies regarding what it would take to treat the entire lake. Youngs said adding silica to the lake would not fuel the growth of cyanobacteria.
“Silica is only a nutrient essential for diatoms,” Youngs said. “It’s not like phosphorous or nitrogen, which will allow other organisms to have growth from it. It’s pretty much a benign material. It’s sand. It will not assist cyanobacteria or any other blue-green algae to grow.”
LIA members and visitors peppered Youngs with questions regarding the project. One question had to do with where the silica would go if introduced into the lake.
“We did a brief calculation, kind of back of the envelop, and if we silica treated the lake for 100 years, we’d add less than a quarter inch of sediment,” Youngs said.
“We are talking microscopic amounts. When you have the right kind of silica in there and diatom dominance, it can be somewhat of a self-perpetuating system but you’ve got to keep treating it.”
Grand Lake Restoration Commission member Brian Miller briefed the group about some of the other program going on around the lake. Miller said the data from the AiryGators has been forwarded to a consulting firm and should be returned in the “very near future.”
A sediment collector in the Big Chickasaw is running and pumping material in to a holding tube. The collector helps remove nutrients and sediment from the stream before it dumps into the lake. Miller said a second collector is scheduled to be placed in Beaver Creek late this week or early next week. Officials also plan to use alum dosing in Big Chickasaw Creek as well so more nutrients can be collected.
St. Marys Township recently was awarded a grant for a third sediment collection, Miller said. The grant, through the Ohio EPA, is for $89,000 to help cover costs of the $140,000 project.
The next meeting of the LIA is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 4 at the Celina Moose Lodge. For more information, visit LakeImprovement.com.