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Technology donated to combat Chippewa Lake algae bloom

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CHIPPEWA LAKE — The Medina County Park District has partnered with the IMET Corp. and is trying to “shift the balance of nature” in Chippewa Lake.

The algal blooms have run amok in Ohio’s largest glacial lake. But park district officials are hoping a pilot program with technology developed by Dr. Mehmet Gencer and Dr. Paul Zakriski, who founded IMET in Cleveland, will be able to fight the algae.

The company installed three submerged bioreactors and two floating reactors in Chippewa Lake recently at a cost of $25,000 to Medina County.

“It’s a study,” Kaan Gencer, vice president of product and business development, said Tuesday. “It’s a joint study to gauge the effectiveness of the IMET technology in the lake to reduce algae and to determine what the next step will be.”

Kaan Gencer said he and the IMET team installed the bioreactors in the lake.

He said the lake has lots of nutrients in the water potentially from existing material at the bottom of the lake, as well as from runoffs and tributaries. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous in the lake is feeding the algae blooms.

“Algae has a strong presence in the lake,” Kaan Gencer said. “It can dominate a water body.”

The aim is for the reactors to help shift the balance of the lake back to a natural equilibrium.

“Right now, it’s out of balance,” Kaan Gencer said.

Microorganisms created by the bioreactors can consume the nutrients in the lake. That is expected to diminish the algae’s food source, which allows other natural plant life to grow.

The bioreactors are cordoned off in the lake near the yacht club. Kaan Gencer wouldn’t put a time table on the duration of the testing in the lake.

“We hope to see results in this warm season,” he said. “Expectations are to have measurable results this year.”

IMET has already tried this approach at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in the Australian exhibit where the water has made a dramatic turnaround.

“The algae population has been suppressed,” Kaan Gencer said. “The pond is back to its natural balance. The plants and animal life in the water body are flourishing.”

Medina County Parks District Director Nate Eppink said the reactors “create conditions to eliminate nutrients organically.”

Eppink said because of the dominance of the algae in the lake the park district is considering additional management options, including the creation of wetlands and additional restoration/reforestation in the watershed.

“This is a bacteria we are dealing with,” Eppink said. “People can get sick from it. Chippewa Lake is a beautiful place, it’s Ohio’s largest glacial lake. This is not unique to Chippewa Lake.”

The park district hopes to see a difference this year during the course of the boating season.

The park district is working collaboratively with the Chippewa Lake Village community to increase public awareness and involvement. It contracted with Aqua Doc, experts in lake and pond management, for an in-depth analysis of nutrient levels at a cost of $34,000, partially funded by the Save the Lake Coalition.

“It’s taken years to get to this point,” Eppink said. “There is no overnight solution.”

The park district issued its first health advisory for Chippewa Lake this week, marking the start of another boating and swimming season when swimming in the lake’s waters will be questionable.

Algal blooms occur due to a combination of factors, including water temperature, rainfall and nutrient runoff within the watershed.

The Chippewa Lake algal bloom is the result of a microscopic organism called cyanobacteria. Its blooms can produce harmful toxins that may make people and pets sick when they come into contact with the water.

A water sample collected at Chippewa Lake on April 30 shows toxin levels of 9.49 parts per billion

Per Ohio’s Harmful Algal Bloom Response Strategy for Recreational Waters, a recreational public health advisory is issued when toxin levels reach 6 ppb.

It warns children, pregnant or nursing women, individuals with certain medical conditions, and pets to avoid contact with the water.

When toxin levels reach 20 ppb, an elevated recreational public health advisory is issued, warning all persons and pets to avoid all contact with the water.

The warnings remain in effect until two consecutive tests taken at least one week apart show levels have dropped below those thresholds.

A report completed by Aqua Doc said a combination of internal and external nutrient loading factors contribute to harmful algal blooms.

Thermal stratification of the lake, which is changes in temperature at different water depths, is creating low oxygen conditions near the bottom, allowing phosphorus to be released from nutrient-rich sediments.

Prolonged stratification conditions — a natural phenomenon — perpetuate an extended algal bloom season in Chippewa Lake.

According to Aqua Doc’s report, the issues at the lake are what they call a “legacy” issue; it is decades in the making. One researcher said these were the highest nutrient levels he has ever seen.

The report also said nutrients still are flowing into the lake via multiple inlets. Lawn fertilizers, farm fields and septic systems are running into the lake.

The report also offered possible management techniques including:

  • Aeration, which entails circulating air, would cost $500,000 for 25 units. The electricity for the units would cost approximately $60,000 a year;
  • Alum, or aluminum sulfate, treatments would cost $1.6 million to $1.8 million. It would trap nutrients in the sediment for about 10 years;
  • Dredging is not recommended and is extremely cost-prohibitive. It would stir up nutrients and make the problem even worse, at least in the short term.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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