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Indian Lake free of harmful algal blooms through proactive work (Audio included)

Indian Lake community members came together for a meeting put on by the Indian Lake Watershed Project in cooperation with the Ohio Lake Management Society on Wednesday.

The gathering was to educate the community about Harmful Algal Blooms, or HAB’s, and the risk they pose to Indian Lake. The body of water has so far dodged the danger put forth by blue-green algae in recent years.

Grand Lake St. Mary’s is one of the earliest sites of HAB in Ohio. The lake has been closed down for various periods in recent years because of the extremely high toxicity of the strands involved.

Dana Oleskiewicz (pictured) is the Program Director for Citizen Lake Awareness and Monitoring and is part of the Ohio Lake Management Society. She brought awareness of the status of blue-green algae, provided information, and disproved common misconceptions about the organism.

Listen to Dana Oleskiewicz of the Ohio Lake Management Society talk about Harmful Algal Blooms

Oleskiewicz explained that algal blooms are actually caused by a type of bacteria and are not algae. There are many different strands of the Cyanobacteria and only a few types, under the right circumstances, are toxic.

“They are harmful because they produce a toxin that can produce illness or even death in some pets and cattle,” Oleskiewicz said. She also mentioned that when triggered, toxicity levels can test higher than the former agricultural chemical DDT.

Bodies of water at highest risk include those with nutrient problems, lakes high in phosphorous, low water levels, and calm and warm water.

Representatives said the organism has been in lakes for thousands of years but just recently, it has become more prevalent and dangerous. The cause of toxicity in some strands is unknown.

There have been no confirmed human deaths from blue-green algae. However, there has been one pet death and many confirmed in humans and animals in recent years.

When a confirmed animal death or testing confirms a high risk of harm, bodies of water will be cautioned or closed.

Vicky Boots is the Executive Director of the Indian Lake Watershed Project and noted the difference between Grand Lake St. Mary’s and Indian Lake.

Boots explains that, because of proactive participation by local agriculturalists, they have greatly decreased the risk of an HAB in Indian Lake.

Listen to Vicky Boots of the Indian Lake Watershed Project talk about prevention of the organism

Blue-green algae thrives off of phosphorous, a chemical widely used in crop farming. The heavy use of the substance for fertilizer in recent years has made agricultural operations one of the major contributing factors to HAB’s across Ohio.

“We have had so much cooperation from our agricultural producers out in the watershed. They got on board first hand back in 1990 when the watershed project was formed,” Boots said. She noted the willingness of local farmers to change their practices and take part in environmentally friendly projects. These include no-till crop farming, installation of buffer strips to prevent chemical-heavy runoff, and many others.

Boots said the objective of the meeting was to educate the community about the organisms for easier prevention in the future. The proactive approach is a strategy that she said has been successful in preventing the toxic algae from infesting the lake.

Oleskiewicz also added that the continuous replenishing of Indian Lake from a freshwater source is another contributing factor for the lack of an algal bloom.

Boots and representatives from the Ohio Lake Management Society revealed a plan to test Indian Lake on a biweekly basis starting in July. A member of the Indian Lake Council volunteered and was trained to collect samples from the lake to be sent to a lab in order to identify the risk of the water.

Through continued vigilance and community awareness, the Indian Lake Watershed Project hopes to make enough of a difference in the surrounding community to prevent Indian Lake from falling into a fate similar to that of Grand Lake St. Mary.

For more information about Harmful Algal Blooms, go to www.OhioAlgaeInfo.com

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