May 21, 2011

Outdoors with Forda Birds — By John Andreoni

I fished a catfish tournament last weekend and did poorly, but that’s another story. However, one of the interesting things I saw, or thought I saw while on the water, was a tinge of green. I hoped I was wrong, but on Sunday and throughout the week, the color was distinct and evident, especially in the channels. It appeared we were developing another bloom of blue-green algae like we had early last summer. Unfortunately, it was showing up almost a month early.

My suspicions were substantiated when I read a fresh ODNR press release that cautioned recreational users of the public beaches at Grand Lake St. Marys to avoid swimming and wading, swallowing water, or playing in the surface scum. According to the Ohio EPA, Natural Resources, and the Department of Health, advisories will be posted at the main beaches located on the eastern end of the lake. The bloom is not confined to the beaches, and according to the release, is visible over most of the lake. “This type of bloom holds the potential for producing algal toxins, including microcystin, such as those experienced at the lake in recent years.” Algal blooms can produce neurotoxins and hepatotoxins. These poisons can potentially impact the health of people and animals that come into contact with water where algal toxins are present.


Now, evidently, the fight begins again, and it’s almost Biblical in proportion. David versus Goliath describes it best. Mother Nature decides to give us record rains in April, and May isn’t cooperating much better. The run-off is greater; more sediment is flushed into the lake along with the chemicals that come with it. Why shouldn’t there be an algae bloom? It was inevitable. For those who thought the lake needed a good flushing, evidently, that didn’t help very much because I’m sure a lot of surplus water headed for the Wabash.

Some rough fish have been netted and removed, and we have three small dredges pumping dirt. I suppose these activities are having some positive effect, but how that effect is evaluated is beyond me. What will be interesting to see is the large alum application scheduled to start the first week of June and its effects. I would love to think that this would have a major impact on the problem. 5000 acres is a lot of area, almost half of the lake. It will take big stones like this to knock down Goliath if he can be knocked down at all.

I think what I just said adequately describes the situation. It wasn’t all gloom and doom, and it wasn’t sugarcoated. We have problems again, and they were expected.  However, regardless of the current advisory being posted, people shouldn’t be afraid to put a boat in the water this Memorial Day. People can still fish, camp, and enjoy the area. Just react to the current advisory by using some common sense. Avoid direct contact with the water. It’s as simple as that.

Here is a thought for your consideration. Lake advisories are nothing new. I know for a fact that they existed more than 60 years ago, and the punishments were far more severe. Back when I was a kid, we weren’t overly concerned about neurotoxins or hepatotoxins. Polio was the villain back then. You didn’t want to spend your life in an “iron lung.” So, you didn’t swim in the lake during the hot summer months or you could catch it, and if your mother saw you take a mouthful of lake water and spit it on your sister, you got your fanny busted. At least, I always assumed the punishment was because I put the water in my mouth. Regardless, that advisory never expired, and I still follow it today.

For some odd reason, in this day and age, we need to be warned about everything. The weather is going to be hot tomorrow, so drink lots of water. The weather is going to be bitterly cold tomorrow, so bundle up your kids. Are people that stupid? I don’t think so.

The lake advisories are just what they’re supposed to be. They’re designed to give advice. You can follow this advice or not; that’s your choice. I’ve been under a lake advisory my whole life, and, so far, it has served me well. 

The issue is the problem. The water is green for a reason, and the reason was manmade. Now, man has to solve it. A lot of people are working on solutions, and the answers are out there. Cost? Well, that’s another can of worms no one really wants to open.

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