In the wake of the recent crisis in Toledo, the Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) coalition gathered at Grand Lake St. Marys to discuss collaborative solutions to the state’s water resource challenges.
HwO is a uniquely diverse group of stakeholders from conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture, public health and others. The group, launched publicly in July, is developing a 20 to 30 year management strategy to address water issues for Ohio. One priority issue is toxic algae.
Grand Lake was chosen as the meeting site because, like Lake Erie, it has been challenged by harmful algal blooms. HwO stakeholders learned about the systems being used to keep Grand Lake’s water safe to drink.
Tour participants learned about a “treatment train” system that diverts water from a nearby creek, treats it with alum then releases it to a man-made wetland to naturally filter the water before it enters the lake. Tests show high amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen are being removed from the water before entering the lake, said Milt Miller of the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission. He said plans are to convert adjacent farmland into wetlands, increasing the amount of water being diverted from the creek. Currently 1.3 million gallons of water are diverted daily to the treatment facility, which is near the lake’s shores and surrounded by housing.
The group also observed a water monitoring station installed in October that measures the amount of nutrients coming from the lake. Laura Johnson with the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University said preliminary findings show the lake is filtering out a lot of the nutrients on its own.
The group also learned about research on how nutrients leave farm fields and ways to prevent the runoff from occurring.
The Grand Lake tour was one in a series of learning events across the state that will help the coalition’s year-long effort to examine water quality and quantity issues, identify the influences on water resources and explore economic, social and environmental opportunities. The coalition will announce its findings and recommendations in the summer of 2015.
The 16-member Healthy Water Ohio steering committee consists of members from Anheuser-Busch, Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, Farm Credit Mid-America, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Ohio AgriBusiness Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio League of Conservation Voters, Ohio State University, Ohio Soybean Council, Scotts Miracle-Gro, The Nature Conservancy and the Village of Ottawa. More than 30 stakeholder groups have engaged in HwO activities to date.