Residents say weekends packed at Grand Lake St. Marys during toxic algal bloom

Miami Valley News

GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS, Ohio (WDTN) – The state health department is reporting unsafe levels of bacteria in Grand Lake St. Marys. It comes as many pools and water parks are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and more people are using the lake.

Some residents said the water health advisory is nothing new, but they have seen the lake more packed the last few weekends than they have in years.

“The last three weekends it’s been packed, and I mean packed,” said April Lyle and Jami Winhoven. “And I think it’s just been because people are ready to get out and enjoy the weather.”

That concerns the Ohio Department of Health which has issued a harmful algal bloom advisory for the lake.

“The most common toxin that we see out there is a toxin called microcystin, and microcystin can affect the liver, it can make you sick and those are things that people really want to stay away from,” said Mary Shaffer, ODH’s recreation program administrator. “There are other toxins that the harmful algal blooms can produce that affect the nervous system and also impact the skin, or dermatoxins, and give you a rash.”

Shaffer said ODNR does all of the water quality monitoring but ODH issues the warnings.

Right now there are 12 advisories in Ohio, but Grand Lake St. Marys is the only waterway with a red flag.

“The microcystin, if it’s at six or higher, that’s where the orange sign will go up and let people know,” said Shaffer. “If it is at 20 or higher, the red sign goes up and as those levels decrease, the signs get removed accordingly.”

Shaffer said this elevated public health advisory means people should avoid all contact with the water.

But she said they do expect more people to find water when temperatures increase, especially at lakes this year because many pools are closed. She urges you to take extreme caution if you do have contact with the water.

“Make sure that they aren’t going into a bloom, that they’re always swimming with someone,” said Shaffer. “But when they come out of those waters, you should wash off immediately if there’s a shower available at the beach. They should certainly wash their hands before they eat or drink anything.”

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