Algae risk shuts down Logan County summer camp


First Posted: 7/28/2010

BELLEFONTAINE - Concern about toxic algae has spread to yet another Ohio body of water this summer, this time prompting officials to close a lake at a Logan County summer camp.

The YMCA of Central Ohio closed the 60-acre Silver Lake at Camp Willson near Bellefontaine after workers noticed a bloom of cyanobacteria, more commonly called blue-green algae, in the water on July 14.

Two water samples taken at the lake contained microcystin, a liver toxin caused by the algae, said John Bickley, the YMCA's president and CEO. One sample showed the toxin at a level 50 times higher than a World Health Organization safety standard for swimmers.

Bickley said 19 campers developed rashes, but no one is sure whether the lake water was to blame.

''This caught us way off guard," he said.

Heavy rainfall and high temperatures this summer have combined to create big problems with toxic algae across the state.

The issue emerged in June at Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio, when blue-green algae grew so dense that it created a crust littered with dead fish. The state is warning people not to touch the lake's water, boat in it or eat fish caught in it.

Algae blooms that plague the shallow western basin of Lake Erie popped up this year about a month earlier than normal. This week, researchers said they recorded high concentrations of phosphorus in two tributaries that feed the lake.

Algae feed on phosphorus from manure and fertilizers that run off farm fields. Algae also feed on phosphorus from untreated sewage.

Officials are monitoring Buckeye Lake and are considering additional tests at Burr Oak State Park's lake, where an algae bloom was first noticed July 15.

Test results released last week found no microcystin in the Burr Oak water. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials said yesterday that they identified the type of blue-green algae, a species called anabaena.

The state is warning Burr Oak visitors to "minimize contact" with any algae they see in the lake water.

''Our staff has not seen a bloom at the lake in about a week," said Mike Shelton, a spokesman with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

State officials are not involved with the testing at Silver Lake, which is privately owned.

EPA spokeswoman Heather Lauer said the agency has received about a half-dozen calls this summer from people reporting green water or potential algae blooms at other privately owned lakes.

''We've suggested that people draw their own samples or have a private contractor draw the samples for them," she said.

Bickley said a second round of tests found no microcystin at Silver Lake. He said the lake might reopen this week if a third test comes back negative for the toxin.

''We need to have two 'no detection' results before we can reopen the lake," he said.

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