Officials with a firm that conducted a test project last year on Grand Lake St. Marys say they plan to maintain a local presence to further their research.

On Wednesday, officials from Algaeventure Systems issued a statement to The Evening Leader regarding a silica test project the firm conducted in September at Grand Lake St. Marys. The $25,000 project involved adding silica, essentially sand, in a 2.5-acre portion of the lake to help feed diatoms. Diatoms, if conditions are suitable, out-compete bluegreen algae.

“While the treatment was clearly non-harmful to the marina or adjacent waters, results with respect to an impact on diatoms or the late stage harmful algal bloom (HAB) that was already underway were inconclusive,” the statement said. “Systems and technology were advanced based upon what was learned during testing at GLSM.  AVS is continuing its technology development on a 40-acre Ohio lake in order to strive for an economically viable method to remove excess nutrients from natural lakes in an environmentally friendly manner.  For the purpose of the silica technology, AVS and/or its collaborators will continue to monitor GLSM waters during 2011.”

Dr. Stephanie Smith, chief scientist at Algaeventure Systems, said researchers learned a lot from the test.

“I think what we learned, not just from the initial trial, but maybe more important in the monitoring, is that the situation in your lake is really complex,” Smith told The Evening Leader. “There’s probably not any single-bullet treatment that will reverse it.”

Last year, a excessive amount of biomass in the water impacted an alum pilot project during the same time frame as the silica test. Smith  said the substance also affected the silica test.

“The biomass, that’s a huge factor,” Smith  said. “Once that train has left the station, it’s hard to send it back the other direction. None of these tests were done when the time was really optimal to do them. When it’s late summer and it’s hot, you just cannot undo a cyano bloom.”

Smith  said she hoped Algaeventure would be able to develop technology to help quell outbreaks.

“That is becoming our long-term (goal),” Smith  said, noting most research is centered on monitoring, detection and preventative measures. “We agree those are of paramount importance, but we are also thinking when a bloom happens what will we do? We are looking to see if they can have some bearing on helping to remediate and reverse the situation.”

Smith  said she expected monitoring at Grand Lake St. Marys to continue as long as it is financially viable.

“We are collecting samples weekly and in mid-June, we will do it twice a week and then later we will be collecting three times a week,” Smith  said.

“That’s when we anticipate a bloom could occur and we want to monitor very carefully through that. Our hope is to continue long-term. We’d like to cover a complete year to capture a seasonal cycle.”

Smith  also testified Wednesday in front of the Science, Space and Technology Congressional Committee concerning harmful algae blooms. During her remarks, Smith  mentioned the plight of Grand Lake St. Marys and other inland lakes multiple times.

“I made five points, but the real theme centers on that currently, most federal funding regarding HAB is spent on marine systems,” Smith  said. “Very little is being done for inland lakes like Grand Lake St. Marys where research is concerned.”

Smith  said she hoped her appearance on Capitol Hill relayed the importance of opening up federal funding to combat HAB in non-coastal areas.

To illustrate her point, Smith said she mentioned the economic impact Grand Lake St. Marys has on the region and how much it stands to lose if it is not cleaned up.

“I really did feature Grand Lake St. Marys and the economic impact of that bloom on Grand Lake St. Marys and how this single case outweighs by two-fold the money put into the problem,” Smith  said. “The bill, as originally written, had funding of $36 million but they probably only will fund $13 million. When you consider you lost $60 million in revenue, that tells you the imbalance there on the understanding.”


By Mike Burkholder, The Evening Leader