Algae as a Main Research Topic At WACF Meeting

Dr. Nate Bosch, chairman of the Center for Lakes and Streams at Grace College, was the guest speaker, at the annual Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation’s meeting Saturday. His presentation focused on scientific…

research the center has and is conducting Bosch’s brief presentation highlighted research studies the center undertaking.

A blue-green algae study with a grant from the Natural Science Foundation and along with the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. The study is looking at how farming is influencing blue-green algae in Lake Erie. The same toxin, microsystin, that prohibited half-million Toledo residents from using drinking water, is what is being looked at in a four-year study.

Bosch noted the study is looking at 58 lake sites and 28 streams, including Lake Wawasee. Bosch noted while microsystin is found in the lake, it is not currently a consistent health threat, but could be in the future. He presented a graph showing levels found on Syracuse and Wawasee over the last four years.

The study has allowed the center to find a promising screening method to provide rapid results. it has also found there may be other algae toxins causing problems, yet to be tested. He noted while Winona Lake has visual signs of algae compared to Wawase Lake, Winona Lake has low microsystins, but other species which are producing anatoxins and saxitoxins which have yet to be tested.

“Lake Wawasee has the exact opposite problems. It looks really clear, even when we start to have elevated toxin levels,” said Bosch. He noted Wawasee had the highest average toxin levels of the 13 all sports lakes in the county over last four years.

He also pointed out the three significant toxin levels of concern: over 1 part per billion prohibiting drinking of the water, 4 ppb, reduction of recreational contact and 20 ppb, shutting down the lake.

The graph he displayed showed water from Syracuse and Wawasee are not drinkable, at least once on Wawasee and once on Syracuse the level reached 4 ppb and in 2009 the toxin levels reached 63, which prompted the research. Further information is available at lakes.grace.edu on this study.

Bosch highlighted other studies: Lake economic impact study in which the lake homes are valued at $3 billion and bring in $15 million in property taxes for the county. Lake Wawasee and Syracuse property values are $1.4 billion of the total and generate $6.7 million in property taxes.

A study of streams flowing into Wawasee over the last two years, have shown preliminary numbers such as while Winona Lake is smaller, it has eight times the amount of phosphorus going into the lake than Wawasee. Had that amount entered Wawasee in 2013 it could have grown 600,000 pounds of algae and $2.6 million pounds of weeds. Further data is still being collected.

Other studies Bosch noted were a National Wildlife Foundation Project focusing on communication between agriculture and environmental science and a DNR project on the impact of public sewers around lakes.

He noted a proposed boating study on Lake Wawasee was rejected by the DNR. The study would look at how boats might be stirring up the bottom of the lake, the impact that may have. Bosch noted the study would have used an underwater camera showing what occurred, a sampling of phosphorus. The purpose of the study was to inform boaters the ideal depth for certain activities. He noted the study could be done if supported by private donations. The estimated cost is $40,000.

The center is also working on a USDA proposal with Purdue University in looking at how to predict changes to a lake from changes upstream. He is making sure Lake Wawasee is included in that study. “This will allow cool simulations,” he stated also allowing different scenarios and what might be feasible and provide for direct efforts in certain areas.

He allowed time for questions and answers which dealt with impact of herbicides on the lakes, more information on blue-green algae toxins including how long the toxins remain and effects on humans.

Photo caption: Dr. Nate Bosch shows the various toxin levels found in Syracuse Lake and Lake Wawasee during a study period. (Photo by Deb Patterson)

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