MEDINA – High levels of a toxic algae that forced the Medina County Park District to close Chippewa Lake last summer spurred a group of lakeside residents to take action to correct the problem
A grassroots group called Save the Lake Coalition has been meeting since last fall to organize support for efforts that could reduce the flow of phosphorous and nitrogen into the lake that triggers the growth of algae each summer.
One particularly harmful form of algae releases microcystin toxin, which can pose a health risk when levels reach six parts per billion. Microcyctin toxin levels exceeded 20 ppb in Chippewa Lake last year, forcing the Park District to temporarily close the lake to conform with public health guidelines.
Mark Krosse, a resident of Chippewa Lake Village, is a spokesman for the Save the Lake Coalition. He said the cause of the toxic algae blooms is hard to identify and a difficult problem to correct.
“We realized early on that the issues affecting water quality are bigger than the lake itself, which is owned by the Park District,” Krosse said. “The nutrients flowing into the lake come from the entire watershed which encompasses about 22 square miles.”
Krosse said there are probably multiple sources of pollutants including industries along Lake Road, farm fields from which fertilizer is washed into streams, leaky septic systems from homes around the area and new housing developments being built in the area.
Consequently, Krosse said his group has sought additional help and resources from agencies like the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Medina County Health Department, the Ohio Farm Bureau and a water quality research facility operated by Ohio State University.
Parks Director Tom James said the first step for remediating the problem is to more clearly define the issues affecting water quality. With that in mind, James said he is about to hire a testing lab to conduct water quality tests throughout the year in hopes of determining the biggest sources of nutrients feeding the algae.
Krosse said members from his Save the Lake Coalition will be volunteering their time to help collect samples for the study.
Possible actions to improve the quality of water flowing into the lake could be stream enhancements and re-establishing wetland areas, encouraging farmers to maintain buffer zones between their plowed fields and streams, and even dredging.
Krosse said any remediation actions are likely to come with a price tag which he does not yet know how to pay for. Even the water quality testing the Park District plans to undertake could be more than the district is ready to spend.
As a result, Krosse said his group has begun fundraising efforts and asks anyone wishing to help to send contributions to Save the Lake in care of Friends of the Medina County Parks, 6364 Deerview Lane, Medina, Ohio 44256.
Save the Lake has also produced a flyer it is distributing to area residents which cite a series of simple ways to prevent contaminants from finding their way into streams and the lake. They include such things as using phosphorus free cleaning products and fertilizers and reducing the amount of lawn and garden fertilizer you use.