Local lakes fighting toxic blue algae

By: Frank Waugh Email
By: Frank Waugh Email

There is a danger lurking in Michiana waters. Toxic blue green algae closed several lakes last summer and experts doing their best to prevent it from happening again.

NewsCenter 16 recently took a trip to Lake Maxinkuckee in Marshall County, where researchers are digging into the lakes past, to help preserve its future.

“The lake has just been a treasure, it has been enjoyed by so many people including myself,” says Alan Chesser, who grew up around the lake, and today he is the Council Chairman of the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, a group that is trying to preserve this Marshall County gem.

“The study itself, will help us maintain the health of the lake better, in the 70’s the lake was approaching a uetrophic state which meant there were a lot of nutrients in the water and the possibility of algal blooms was higher,” says Alan

Alan says the lake is cleaner today, but they still have concerns about the nutrients that could lead to an algae bloom.

“A lot of the nutrients are in solution, and we know that more nutrients arrive in solution than leave the lake, so we believe that there has been an accumulation, but the only place that we think we are going to find them, are in the sediments,” explains Alan.

With depths over 80 feet, retrieving that sediment isn't exactly easy work, that's why they enlisted the Kansas, U.S. Geological Survey to do the digging.

“We are analyzing the samples for a lot of different constituents, nutrients, trace elements, metals, different biological indicators,” says Kyle Juracek who is with the Kansas USGS.

To do so, a special boat is used along with what is known as a corer.

“This is what the box corer looks like, we will lower it down with a cable,” explains Kyle. “And then we allow it to slowly sink down into the sediment, and then when its motion pretty stops it will trigger this spring loaded pin to pop out and the jaws on the bottom will snap shut, and then we pull it back up.”

As we found out, taking core samples in 40 feet of water can be a little tricky. After three attempts at getting a sample, they retrieve a somewhat successful one.

“Ideally I would like to get it up to about here, there may or may not be much more to get than this,” says Kyle.

Once on dry land, the tedious work begins. Two centimeter samples of the mud are scraped into individual jars. Eventually these jars will end up in a lab for analysis.

“It can provide a lot of different types of information that can be helpful, for example if there was a serious contamination problem going on that maybe wasn't known previously, the chemical analysis of the cores would identify that as a potential problem that needs to be addressed,” says Kyle.

In addition to identifying problems, they hope to also learn if their current efforts to keep the lake healthy are truly working.

“The water quality assessments that they have done, have indicated that those wetlands have been effective in reducing the amounts of phosphorus and we are hoping that maybe that will show up in these cores as well,” explains Kyle.

“We know that a lot of changes have taken place in the water shed these last 100 years,” says Alan. “This will help us with a base line and help us understand how many nutrients are at the bottom of the lake and if they do pose a threat.”

Armed with information, they hope to keep these waters safe for generations to come.

In total nine core samples were taken from the lake and the results will be available over the next several months.


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