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Water Quality

Medina County Park District (MCPD) regularly monitors the water quality of Chippewa Lake.

In colder months, if the lake rises above the high-water mark during flooding, the lake will be closed until it drops to its regular level.  From May through October, MCPD will order an E. coli test through the Medina County Health Department. Acceptable levels of E. coli are required, as determined by the health department, before the lake will be reopened.

When harmful algal blooms are present, based on several factors including appearance, satellite data from the EPA, and analysis of water samples completed by NEORSD, the park district can place restrictions on recreational activities.

The following color-coded flag system is in place to alert visitors to water conditions. Flags are flown in several locations around Chippewa Lake.

What are harmful algal blooms?

Harmful algal blooms are not unique to Medina County. In fact, they’re an increasingly common occurrence in waterways throughout Ohio and around the nation.

Cyanobacteria blooms occur due to a combination of factors including water temperature, light, and the level of nutrients (particularly phosphorus) present in water. A Chippewa Lake bloom is often the result of several different species of cyanobacteria, many of which are capable of producing harmful toxins like microcystin and others. Though often referred to as algae, cyanobacteria are actually a type of photosynthetic bacteria that bears little similarity to true algae.

Where are nutrients coming from?

The Chippewa Lake Watershed comprises some 21.9 square miles, or roughly 14,000 acres, that drain into Chippewa Lake, which is approximately 330 acres in size.

Regrettably, a large portion of wetlands in the watershed were drained in the Nineteenth Century. In the process, we lost nature’s “filters.” The channelization of streams and loss of native vegetation have also contributed to the accumulation of nutrients in Chippewa Lake.

Major nutrient sources within the watershed could include residential lawn fertilizer, agricultural fertilizer, and faulty household septic systems.

Health implications for people and pets

Bacteria are native to Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and rivers. Most are harmless, but some types of cyanobacteria can produce dangerous toxins that can reach high levels during times of rapid growth (called “blooms”) or at the end of their life cycles as they decompose.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, harmful algal blooms can produce toxic chemicals in the form of neurotoxins (affecting the nervous system), hepatotoxins (affecting the liver), and dermatotoxins (affecting the skin). Common means of contact include swallowing contaminated water; skin contact through activities like swimming, water skiing and tubing; and inhaling contaminated mist while jet-skiing or power-boating.

Exposure to these toxic chemicals can cause a variety of reactions, including severe diarrhea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, rashes, skin blisters, a sore throat, and runny eyes. Individuals should seek medical attention if they believe they have been exposed to algal toxins and are having adverse health effects.

Dogs may have more severe symptoms than people, including collapse and sudden death, after drinking contaminated water or licking it from their fur.

What is the park district doing to address the issue?

The park district has been monitoring Chippewa Lake for harmful algal blooms since the first bloom was reported in 2014. To date, the park district has made two applications of a copper-based algaecide to help mitigate cyanobacteria blooms. The product, Lake Guard Blue, is a U.S. EPA-approved and NSF/ANSI-60 certified product. Its biodegradable coating enables the product to float on the surface of the water, traveling to the affected location where its active ingredient causes oxidative stress and major damage to algae and cyanobacteria populations. Costly applications of products such as this can provide temporary relief from HABs, but ultimately, do not treat the root cause of these issues (i.e., excessive nutrients).

Most important, for more than two decades, MCPD has been restoring native wetlands within the watershed. Wetlands act like giant sponges that absorb floodwater and nutrients.

The H2Ohio-funded Chippewa Lake Wetlands project saw 118 acres improved north of Chippewa Road, along the Chippewa Inlet Trail; the removal of debris, the creation of wetlands, and two streams restored in the former amusement park property; and wetlands established off Kennard Road along the outlet.