Concerns of the algal blooms on Springfield Lake continue as Springfield Township and the village of Lakemore have formed a citizen’s task force to address the issues.

Algal blooms have been an issue for Springfield Lake the past two years. The lake lies half in the village and half in the township. To look at the problem involves the two communities working together and Springfield Resident Michele Moyer will be leading a task force made up of citizens from Lakemore and Springfield to research and report findings on what the causes are and what can be done about the blooms. 

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association states an algal bloom or HAB’s (harmful algal blooms), “occurs when colonies of algae — simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater — grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people.”

Lakemore Mayor Rick Justice said the problem is so new he doesn’t think anyone has a grip on it yet. The algal bloom problem has existed on Lake Erie prior to the past two years, however, through satellite photographic technology, the blooms are now being discovered on the inland water ways of Ohio. The technology had been used on Lake Erie for a number of years.

“Now every lake gets a satellite analysis and the community is expected to take it from there,” said Justice. “As a governing body you have to do something about it, or you are not doing your job. So, we (Springfield Lakemore) test together.”

Springfield Trustee Dean Young said the problem is nutrient overload. Nutrients come from many different sources and that is why the lakes across the state are experiencing the algal growth problems. Items that can cause issues include heavy fertilizing of lawns, faulty septic systems, storm sewer overflow and organic materials that find their way into the lake. Even leaves getting into ditches and eventually into the water can attribute to the problem.

“We have not quantified what it is," Young said. "It requires study. The lake is the watershed for about 1,500 acres,” said Young, noting that natural wetlands that were once a natural protection for the lake, have been developed over the years causing more unfiltered runoff going into the lake and loss of natural filtration. 

Lakemore and Springfield officials have been meeting with organizations such as the Health District and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to look at all options. One organization offered services of placing materials in the lake to help with the issues at a cost of approximately $60,000 a year. At this time, officials say, there is really no track record as to whether it works or not.

“We don’t know what the repercussions are, and we found through a test it leaves a scum," Young said.

The algae feeds on the nutrients and then, the algae in its dying phase, sets off the toxic material that can make people sick if ingested.

“We need to learn a lot more about it,” said Young. 

The township and village were required to post warning signs as to the algal bloom this summer. For people are using the lake, ingestion of the water that can cause illness and that depends on an individual’s immune system as to how they would react to ingesting the water. However, government entities are not telling Lakemore and Springfield to barricade the lake and keep people off. Fish in the lake are also safe to eat as they do not metabolize the toxins as a human would.

While fertilizers are a big issue, dumping unused medications down the toilet or throwing them in landfills is another. In the recent years, dump sites have been established for unused medications such as the one at the Lakemore Police Station.

Justice said this lake issue, “shuts down one of our biggest assets and I think it could affect property values if people can’t use the lake. It is a big problem for us.”

A resolution was approved at a September Springfield trustees meeting to form the Lake Task Force to investigate and make recommendations regarding the environmental conditions of the lake.

At that meeting, Young said the lake is an important regional asset used for boating, swimming, fishing, waterskiing and other recreational activities. It is a rare geological feature formed by glaciers that traveled across what is now the state of Ohio forming what is called a kettle lake. It is one of a handful of spring fed lakes in North America.

Moyer said there needs to be a collaborative effort between the two communities, Summit County and the City of Akron to resolve the problem. She said the first goal is determining who is polluting and to bring recognition that this is an "outstanding body water" in the state of Ohio, which Springfield Lake meets the guidelines to be named one. The only lake listed in the state is Lake Erie.

“Doing so, would really help our efforts,” she said.

The lake testing continues and is overseen by Summit County Public Health and Summit County Soil and Water. Recently, personnel from the task force went out on the lake with a representative of The Ohio State University Stone Lab to take samples. The lab will offer suggestions and the possibility for funding to help with the fixes needed.

Symptoms of problems from the blooms could be breathing issues, rashes or stomach problems. If there were ongoing long-term exposure to the cyanotoxins, there could also be liver damage.

More information will be available from testing and task force research.

For questions and more specific information on illnesses caused, call the Summit County Public Health at 330-923-4891.