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Lake is ‘open for business’

ODNR’s ‘Algae King’ Scott Fletcher explains the advisory signs Wednesday morning at the North Shore Boat Ramp. Beacon photo by Scott Rawdon.

ODNR’s ‘Algae King’ Scott Fletcher explains the advisory signs Wednesday morning at the North Shore Boat Ramp. Beacon photo by Scott Rawdon.

BUCKEYE LAKE – The lake is safe for everyone, contrary to what some media reports have led people to believe.

“This lake is open for business. Come out and enjoy our parks,” said Ohio State Parks Chief David Payne.

The Licking and Fairfield county convention and tourism bureaus, the Buckeye Lake Museum, and the Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow organization invited several state agencies and local media to the Buckeye Lake State Park North Shore Boat Ramp Wednesday morning to reassure the public that Buckeye Lake is safe for swimming, boating, and fishing, even though several Algal Bloom Advisories have been posted.

Payne said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio State Parks are committed to Buckeye Lake. He added that some media reports have misinterpreted the advisories, leading some people to believe that the algae issues are similar to those at Grand Lake St. Marys.

Merv Bartholow, president of the Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow – a volunteer community watershed management group – said the group established 17 test points of its own – 10 in the lake and seven in its tributaries. “Our focus has been on the overall water clarity and color, as well as phosphorous and nitrogen content,” he said. Excess amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen can lead to blue-green algae. Bartholow said phosphorus and nitrogen levels are lower this year than last.

“The microcystin toxins that everyone seems to focus on are found in most lakes as well as most drinking water,” said Bartholow. He said the World Health Organization set a guideline of one part per billion for safe drinking water and 20 parts per billion for safe recreation in lakes. The Ohio Department of Health added an additional guideline of six parts per billion for safe swimming and wading in Ohio lakes.

In 2010, the highest level the state detected in Buckeye Lake was 20 parts per billion at Brooks Park for one test. All other results were 3.5 parts per billion or less. Bartholow said that of 24 samples taken this year, 10 were one part per billion or less and only five reached levels in excess of three parts per billion. “One interesting observation occurred at Crystal Beach, which had been posted for algae sightings,” he said. June 20, the reading at Crystal Beach was 0.2 parts per billion and the next day the City of Akron’s drinking water read 0.3 parts per billion.

Ohio EPA posted the latest microcystin levels Wednesday evening based on samples taken on July 11. All three beaches – Brooks, Crystal and Fairfield – are sampled weekly. Wednesday’s results were excellent with two results listed for Brooks at 0.4 ppb and 1.7 ppb and 1.6 ppb for Fairfield. One of the Brooks’ results is likely for Crystal Beach, but both results show a huge drop from the 9.4 ppb on July 5 and 10.4 ppb on June 27. Those two results are the only ones this year at Buckeye Lake that exceed the new 6 ppb recreational threshold

“Yes, we have challenges dealing with a neglected lake, however, the overall condition of the water in the lake is nowhere near the crisis that one were to believe, if one were only to read the headlines,” said Bartholow. He said any news stories comparing Buckeye Lake with Grand Lake St. Marys “are not only misleading, they are, for the most part, outright fabrications.”

“Do I think this will be the next Grand Lake St. Marys? No, unequivocally,” said Scott Fletcher, operations, training, and safety section manager for Ohio State Parks, who asked people to notice the warning sign was removed from Crystal Beach. “We’re trying to protect public health,” he said. The signs do not mean that the beach is closed. “We manage beaches and invite people to swim at them,” said Fletcher.

Fletcher said, “a lake is a living place” and algae levels can change quickly. He said until 2007 no one knew that bluegreen algae posed a health threat. They found the algae and posted signs at Grand Lake St. Marys in 2009. “We haven’t seen anything like that at Buckeye Lake,” said Fletcher.

He added that there is no evidence that algal toxins accumulate in fish flesh. Fish are safe to eat.

“Ohio’s thresholds (the 6 ppb recreation threshold down from the World Health Organization 20 ppb threshold) are very conservative,” Fletcher said.

Payne encouraged people to continue to enjoy Buckeye Lake. “The saugeye, walleye, and bass are hitting well,” he said. He added that a weed harvester was brought out this week to reduce weed growth.

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