Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Treatment train online

LFA OKs final payment for site

By Ed Gebert

Migratory birds enjoy the water at the Coldwater Creek Treatment Train on Johnst. . .

CELINA - Construction of the Coldwater Creek Treatment Train has wrapped up.
Lake Facilities Authority Board members on Tuesday afternoon approved final payment of $20,000. The $2.1 million project uses a former 40-acre farm field as a water treatment area, using vegetation and constructed wetlands to filter phosphorus and other nutrients from water flowing from Coldwater Creek into Grand Lake. Removing the phosphorus is done to eliminate the food source for algae. Algal blooms create high levels of microcystin, a dangerous liver toxin, in the water.
Grand Lake remains under a public health advisory, warning people to avoid contact with the water due to unsafe levels of algal toxins in the lake. The toxin level has been at this advisory level during the entire summer.
"It's been a couple of years from the planning stage, all the way through the design, the construction and now finishing construction," said Mercer County Community and Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing. "It's a real nice project. There's still a lot of growth to go out there, a lot of plants, etc. that need to grow up."
The treatment train is the second to be completed on a Grand Lake tributary. The Prairie Creek Treatment Train was completed in 2013.
Despite a few minor cleanup issues to finish from the construction work, LFA board members voted to accept a certificate of substantial completion from VTF Excavating. The remaining grading issues will be corrected by the end of October.
"Already you can see, if you go out to Johnson Road, a number of migratory birds that are out there and some of the other wildlife that are really just coming to life," Ebbing remarked. "It's starting to filter the water very well, and we expect it to continue to do so for years to come, and that will help the lake as a whole."
The facility took longer than expected to bring on line this year, thanks to the dry spring and summer, which made it difficult to grow the vegetation used to filter the water.
Treatment trains will continue to be the strategy in removing phosphorus from the water. The next train, currently under construction, will be on Beaver Creek.
"We did some minor grading and put a cover crop down (this year). We'll let it settle out through the winter and next spring and look at the rest of it," Ebbing said.
Following that will be a treatment train between big and little Chickasaw creeks, a project that likely will start in spring. This project will be the largest treatment train with a price tag of about $2.5 million. At that point, the only tributary needing a treatment train will be Barnes Creek in Auglaize County, considered the cleanest waterway leading into the lake. The efforts are being funded by the state and overseen by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
With Coldwater Creek's facility running, Ebbing cautioned the treatment trains still have a while to go before a large effect is seen in lake water quality.
"It's not the be-all, end-all, but some kind of filtering mechanism to get that water to slow, to settle out and go into some natural wetlands," he said.
As the vegetation continues to grow, more and more of the flowing water will be diverted to the facilities, with the goal of filtering all water before it enters the lake. Funding for the Chickasaw creeks project is expected next year.
"You kind of get one from the state line-item budget of them out of the way before the next chunk arrives," Ebbing said.
The toxin from the blooms was first discovered in Grand Lake after 2007 testing for a U.S. EPA nationwide inland lakes survey. OEPA did not know of the toxin until a month before the 2009 Memorial Day weekend when state officials asked to see Ohio's results and found Grand Lake's level was 78 ppb.
The toxin level in Grand Lake became so dangerous in 2009 OEPA issued warnings that contact with the lake water should be avoided.
In 2011 the 58,000-acre Grand Lake watershed was designated distressed after humans and animals had been sickened by toxins in the lake in 2010. Most of the nutrients that feed the lake's algae come from farmland, the largest land use in the lake's watershed, OEPA tests show.
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