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Web letter by Mike Doseck: Steuben lakes in danger of disaster like Grand Lake St. Marys

As the debate continues about the proposed 4,000-hog concentrated animal feeding operation to be located centrally within Steuben County’s pristine lake area, I think back of my time growing up on Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio.

My family owned a home on Grand Lake St. Marys where I fished, skied, sailed; worked at a local marina; and attended my freshman year of college at Wright State Lake Campus. During the summers there would be months that I literally wouldn’t be in a car because I boated to everything I needed to do.

Grand Lake St. Mary’s is dying because of toxic algae that is caused by manure and fertilizer runoff from watershed lands feeding the lake. The major source of the manure and fertilizer comes from the 450 or so mostly family-owned farms located near the lake. These substances feed the toxic algae that robs the lake of oxygen, kills off fish and releases neurotoxins that are dangerous to humans and pets.

The Ohio EPA continually post signs warning of “no contact” with the water. The Ohio Department of Health has reported of at least 13 people with illnesses and several dog deaths attributed to the toxic algae. The future of Grand lake St. Marys’ $160 million tourism industry and 2,600 employees is at stake.

The toxic algae problem is exacerbated at Grand Lake St. Marys because of its shallow depth; however, the threat is the same for Steuben County’s lakes, where the ground is sandy and porous.

On Aug. 22 the Indiana Department of Environmental Management held a public meeting to discuss the situation. IDEM has to follow its own rules and cannot directly block the construction of K&D Contract Pork LLC’s CAFO. As stated on Sept. 1 (“IDEM’s answers on CAFO not enough”), IDEM can only engage its six to seven inspectors who oversee the existing 1,881 CAFOs in the state.

Before Steuben County’s lakes are subjected to the same risks as Grand Lake St. Marys, the Steuben County Plan Commission, Zoning Department and County Commissioners need to take action to protect our lakes that are not only a beautiful source of recreation but also a major economic driver for the area. It would be good to read a response from these agencies about what they are doing to address this looming tragedy.

MIKE DOSECK

Fort Wayne/Lake Gage

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