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Two More Ohio Lakes Face Closure Due To Toxic Algae

Another Ohio lake could be off limits to swimmers and boaters if lab results come back that it has toxic algae. The toxic scum have flourished in ponds and lakes across Ohio this summer. WOSU found out why.

Dillon Lake in Muskingum county could be the latest Ohio pond with unsafe levels of toxic algae.

Ohio environmental officials are testing the scum and for now, they ask visitors to have minimal contact with the water. Erin Strouse with the Ohio EPA said Lake Hope in Vinton County got a similar advisory Tuesday.

"Limit contact with the water, not touch the scum, not drink the lake water if you're swimming. And again, we're waiting on results to be posted from the lab." But limited contact with the water could go to a "no contact" advisory if the algae is toxic and at high enough levels." she said.

All across the state, the blue green algae has put a damper on the summer for many boaters, swimmers and at least one local economy. Grand Lake Saint Marys in western Ohio and Cutler Lake east of Columbus are off limits altogether. Grand Lake Saint Marys is toxic to the liver and Cutler Lake has nerve toxins.

Burr Oak Lake in Morgan County could have its restrictions lifted if recent testing shows toxins are not detected. A YMCA lake in Logan County, shut down in July because of toxic scum.

Experts say the toxic algae are an issue all over the state, including small family ponds. It flourishes in water that has high levels of phosphorous and other nutrients. While it usually doesn't show up until late summer, it began to bloom earlier this year.

William Lynch, a specialist in aquatic eco-systems management at Ohio State, said it's no coincidence the algae was not as bad last summer when temperatures were milder. This summer has been much warmer.

"This year it's much worse because not only do we have these high levels of phosphorous, but now we've added very warm water temperatures. I haven't seen water temperatures this high in ponds in probably ten years. When you get that warm of water now the blue-green algae have a competitive advantage and begin to proliferate," he said.

And Lynch said a rainy spring, particularly in May, intensifies the problem because runoff from farms adds phosphorous and nitrogen to ponds.

"The general consensus is, if we have a real, real dry spring, which wouldn't be good for agriculture, it would probably lesson the problems in most of these water bodies," Lunch said.

Lynch adds the algae is here to stay as long as nutrient levels, like phosphorous, are not addressed.

The Ohio EPA is investigating about a dozen reports of illnesses related to the algae.