Battelle researchers will help in the fight against the toxic blue-green algae plaguing Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio.

The Columbus-based research giant announced yesterday that it was awarded a contract to find the best water-treatment methods and devices to keep blue-green algae from growing and posing a health threat to visitors to the 13,000-acre lake.

Funding for the $50,000 project is split 50-50 between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission, a group of local business leaders looking for ways to clear algae out of the water.

Milt Miller, a restoration-commission co-founder, said Battelle researchers have the expertise to sort through as many as 60 proposals from different companies, each of which says it can help fight the algae.

"We’re just a bunch of passionate volunteers," Miller said. "We’re paying for scientific expertise. (Battelle) can be much more effective and to the point than we ca

Blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, are common in most Ohio lakes and streams. But they grow particularly thick in Grand Lake St. Marys, where they feed on phosphorus from manure that storms wash off nearby farms.

State officials first learned blue-green algae were in Grand Lake two years ago. Last summer, they grew so thick that the state warned people not to touch the water, eat fish caught there or take boats out on the lake.

At least eight people were "probably" sickened by algae-produced liver and nerve toxins in lake water last summer, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Algae and warning signs reappeared at Grand Lake beaches last month.

Battelle spokesman T.R. Massey said researchers will spend six months evaluating different algae-fighting technologies. He said the evaluation will include a state-funded project, currently under way at the lake, in which aluminum sulfate is used to "rob" the water of phosphorus.

Miller said Battelle also will examine different devices, including some already in use at the lake, that mix oxygen into the water to help keep algae from growing.


From The Columbus Dispatch