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Rescuing Chippewa Lake

“It took us 25 minutes to treat the lake. The next  afternoon, the toxic algae was gone and the beaches were back open. That was three years ago. They haven’t had a single bloom episode since.”

The Ferris wheel and carousel stopped spinning long ago at the Chippewa Lake Amusement Park. For a century, from 1878 to 1978, the park welcomed visitors to the shores of Chippewa Lake, a glistening gem in the heart of Ohio. Back in the day, the lake’s cooling waters and the park’s hair-raising rides drew summer vacationers from all over. 

One can imagine families strolling the midway, braving the Big Dipper wooden roller coaster, taking a cruise on the park’s tour boat, the Miss Chippewa, and then going for a dip in the lake.

Postcard of Chippewa Lake Amusement Park, 1960s

During the amusement park’s heyday in the 1920s and ‘30s, Chippewa Lake was a popular fishing spot for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. Summering families bought cottages near the water’s edge and eventually became year round residents, and the village of Chippewa Lake grew up around it.

In 1978, the amusement park shut down and the property was abandoned. To this day, ghostly skeletal remnants of some of the park’s rides remain behind a fence and locked gate; trees and brush consuming what’s left, nature reclaiming the land along the lake.

The park closure marked the end of an era, but the village of Chippewa Lake continued to thrive, and to lure people seeking respite from the summer heat.

“Somebody one day said the satellite spotted an algae bloom. And we said, “What’s an algae bloom?”

By the time BlueGreen Water Technologies arrived in 2019, the lake was in trouble. Five summers before, a pea green slime began creeping across the water as soon as the temperature started warming up. Toxic algae blooms, caused by a rapid explosion of cyanobacteria, had become so frequent and severe that health officials were forced to close the lake to public access during consecutive peak summer seasons.  

Keith Reidel has spent practically every summer on the lake since 1948.  “Somebody one day said the satellite spotted an algae bloom. And we said, “What’s an algae bloom?”

Residents were suddenly dealing with a summer menace that is plaguing water bodies across America and around the globe. Toxic algae blooms choke aquatic ecosystems, creating an environment where other organisms can’t survive. Outbreaks of cyanobacteria can sicken people and pets who come into contact with infected water. The unsightly blooms can drive down property values and damage local economies. Eliminating them can be extremely difficult. 

In August, 2019, the Save the Lake Coalition tapped BlueGreen to rid the lake of its harmful algae problem.

“It took us 25 minutes to treat the lake,” said Eyal Harel, CEO, BlueGreen Water Technologies. “The next  afternoon, the toxic algae was gone and the beaches were back open. That was three years ago. They haven’t had a single bloom episode since.”

Without further data, it’s a bit of a mystery as to why Chippewa has not had a harmful algal bloom for three years. Each lake is a unique ecosystem.

 “The most likely scenario is a succession of algal species,” said Dr. Oori Weisshaus, CTO, BlueGreen. “There’s a well established phenomenon where certain green algae species dominate the ecosystem following treatment and consume available nutrients, as well as secrete natural compounds called allelochemicals that suppress competition, including the resurgence of cyanobacteria.”

“By increasing the biodiversity of beneficial phytoplankton species and restoring the lake to a healthy ecosystem, we have helped to prevent the resurgence of harmful toxins,” said Dr. Moshe Harel, CSO, BlueGreen.

It is not uncommon for harmful algal blooms to eventually reoccur after treatment. But three years after BlueGreen poured that first bag into the water, Chippewa Lake remains free of toxic algae. And this Fourth of July, families were once again able to gather on the shores of the lake to enjoy a picnic and watch the Chippewa Lake Ski Show Team in action.

Courtesy:  Chippewa Lake Water Ski Show Team

“Chippewa will forever be fondly remembered as our first big splash,” said Harel. “It was and still is our greatest honor to be able to help the local community reclaim its water resources, protect the health of residents and visitors, and support the local economy.”

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