Medina County Park District capital projects coordinator Nate Eppink explains some of the issues regarding algal blooms in Chippewa Lake on Tuesday morning during a presentation hosted by the Medina County Park District at Wolf Creek Environmental Center.
NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE Enlarge
SHARON TWP. — Hands shot in the air after Medina County Park District capital projects coordinator Nate Eppink asked, “Has anyone in the room been affected by algal blooms?”
“We certainly have in the park district,” he said Tuesday morning during a presentation on algal blooms at Wolf Creek Environmental Center.
“As many of you know, in 2007 we purchased Chippewa Lake, and we have experienced in recent years some toxic algal blooms there.”
The presentation, hosted by the park district, took a look at the algal blooms that not only are affecting Chippewa Lake, but lakes nationwide and around the world.
Chris Winslow of the Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory used Lake Erie as an example of a body of water that has sustained multiple algal blooms in recent years.
“We will use Lake Erie as our test model here,” Winslow said. “Some of the things that I address here will be relevant to what you guys are dealing with.”
Winslow said “algae” is a generic term, and the term “harmful algal bloom” and even green lake water do not necessarily translate to toxins in the water.
“Under the ice and in the spring, our water is dominated by diatoms, a type of algae,” he said. “The color of the water can have a brown or a goldish color.”
As temperatures increase and the ice melts, the diatoms begin to decrease and green algae increases, Winslow said.
“There are hundreds of species within Lake Erie and within your local lakes,” he said. “Not a single diatom species or a green algal species has the ability of reaching toxins.”
Winslow said it is what comes next, blue-green algae, that can cause trouble.
“They have a bluish green tint to them, and we called them algae because we didn’t know enough about them,” he said. “The problem is if you look at the genetics, they are actually closer to the bacteria than they are the algal species.”
Winslow said there is a handful of species of this cyanobacteria that actually produce toxins.
“I wish we could go back and call this cyanobacteria blooms and not harmful algal blooms because it is a misnomer,” he said.
The algal blooms in Chippewa Lake are caused by cyanobacteria, and the blooms can produce harmful toxins that may make people and pets sick when they come into contact with the water.
On Monday, the park district issued a health advisory about elevated levels of microcystin — 7.4 parts per billion — a toxin produced by the blooms. The district advised children, pets and pregnant women to avoid the water.
A health advisory is issued when toxin levels reach 6 ppb.
Algal blooms occur due to a combination of factors including water temperature, rainfall and nutrient runoff.
Winslow said through OSU and the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, he is working on about 50 projects costing about $6 million to research ways to detect the algal blooms, access health impacts and land use and develop new technology to remove the toxins.
Bonnie Farren of Chatham Township said following the presentation that she owns a
30-acre farm with a 1-acre lake on it that has been in her family for 50 years, and she has noticed significant algal blooms within the last few years.
Farren said she wonders if a pipe that dumps runoff from state Route 83 has contributed to the algae in her family lake.
“I’m thinking eventually that runoff comes into our lake,” she said.
Bonnie Law of Bay Village said she is an avid bird watcher, and toxic algal blooms can affect bird and aquatic life.
“I often wonder, especially with Chippewa Lake, the impact that it has. There are active eagle’s nests around there that produce eggs every year,” she said. “That is why I came today, because I would like to know what people are doing on a level above us, the people that have the muscle.”
To address algal blooms that have been occurring in Chippewa Lake since 2016, Eppink said: “We are doing a number of things weekly.”
In addition to collecting regular water samples to determine when toxin warnings need to be posted, the park district also is working on a yearlong study with a Geauga County-based company for more in-depth testing of the lake and sediment.
“We are even talking to a startup out of Cleveland that is building bioreactors combined with aeration as a way to reduce the impacts of the blooms,” Eppink said.
He said the park district is in the research phase, collecting information and assembling data.
“That’s how it all starts,” Winslow said.
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