A story in the Dec. 2 edition of the Celina Daily Standard, “Officials seek to align efforts to improve lake,” proves that the lake has been getting worse over the past six years rather than better. It also proves that elected and public officials have lied to the public over the past few years that the lake is getting better.
Gov. Kasich and his administration have failed on his promise to clean up our lake. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer, Ohio Rep. Jim Buchy and Lake Restoration Commission Manager Milt Miller have done the most damage to efforts to clean up Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM). All are on record stating the lake was getting better while knowing all along the toxin levels were increasing every year.
Here is the truth about the lake cleanup issue:
• GLSM toxins levels started zooming up around the year 2000 as the farm animal population began skyrocketing — it didn’t take several decades for the lake to get this polluted.
• State and local officials have known since the 2007 “Total Maximum Daily Load Report” stated that 98 to 100-plus percent of all phosphorous, nitrates and fecal coliform should be stopped from coming into the lake.
• 2010 — Entire lake blue-green algae bloom — millions of tourism dollars and many lake users go to other lakes.
• Study to evaluate an alum treatment showed the effectiveness of the treatment was inconclusive and with the best chance of success would be a full lake application — state decided to do it anyway but they only applied alum the first year on two-thirds of the lake and the second year only one-third.
• Various strategies have been tried with no scientific proof that any of it would work: bubbler systems, Airy Gator, sediment collectors, solar bees, dredging, rough fish removal.
• Treatment trains — Mr. Miller has yet to show any scientific evidence from the first treatment train to prove the millions being spent on the second treatment train will be effective.
For Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing and Milt Miller to claim they need more money seems to beg the question: Is the state tired of throwing money at no real solution for cleaning up the lake when the state and local governments have no interest in solving the pollution problem? With a 90 percent failure rate, why do Ebbing and Miller still have their jobs? Most of us would be fired for being 10 percent successful in our jobs. Local government, public officials, and local courts have enabled farmers to continue polluting with no serious deterrent.
Mr. Ebbing and Mr. Miller need to read the “Total Maximum Daily Load Report,” if they don’t know how to clean up the lake. It clearly states what needs to take place. The real problem is farmers who don’t care about the health and financial impact of the toxic lake on their neighbors and friends. The other half of the equation is the persistence by local governments to force out qualified employees and replace them with unqualified or underqualified employees who are too tied to the farming community.
Our lake and community need the following:
• Ban all manure dumping in the watershed until the lake is healthy for contact by humans, animals and aquatic life;
• Ban any additional animals from coming into the watershed until the lake is cleaned up;
• Tax farmers on industrial farm waste and have it removed from the watershed;
• Increase the real estate tax on farmland so it is equitable with other real estate tax rate;
• Have a neutral party to conduct an audit of the agricultural funding coming into the community;
• Have GLSM tested for nitrates, growth hormones and antibiotics;
• Give Milt Miller performance measures to meet with an annual review and a written report to the public;
• Set a timetable to have the lake cleaned up;
• Replace underqualified employees with qualified personnel;
• Open all public records for public examination such as manure management plans.
These items will get the lake to a healthy state much quicker than treatment trains, bubblers, alum, etc.
Public education is needed but local elected officials and public servants continue to interfere with the truth getting out to the public. Guardians of Grand Lake St. Marys has tried to educate the public, but the group has been met with elected officials trying to keep the group from meeting, local post office blocking our mail for two years, speakers threatened, and people wanting to attend our meetings have been bullied into not coming. With this regime in control, one can bet that little will happen.
The writer is the president of Guardians of Grand Lake St. Marys.