Erring on the side of caution, the Party in the Park boat races scheduled for Saturday have been canceled due to a minor toxic blue-green algae bloom at Veterans Memorial Lake, Great Bend Public Lands Director Scott Keeler said.
“We want to look out for the wellbeing of the citizens of Great Bend,” Keeler said. “We’re just trying to be careful.”
This bloom is nowhere near the magnitude of the outbreak a few years ago that forced the closing of the lake, Keeler said. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is not involved and there are no watches or warnings in place.
City crews noticed the problem last Friday and immediately shocked Vets with 270 gallons of alum nitrate. This helps neutralize the algae.
“We are in a maintenance mode,” Keeler said. Now, they are dosing the lake with the same amount on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Keeler suspects the recent cool snap chilled the surface water, causing the lake to circulate. The circulation brings up the algae-feeding nutrients from the bottom sediment.
“We’re just going to skip the events on the water this year,” said Community Coordinator Christina Hayes, hoping things will clear in 2018. This included the canoe and kayak races.
But, “there is still plenty to do,” she said. Hayes is still taking entries for the wet/dry parade and registrations for the mud volleyball tournament, all of which are due by Friday by calling her office at 620-793-4111.
In addition, there is the myriad of other activities, from the games to the kite demonstration to the concerts to the fireworks. “People can come, pitch a tent and spend the day,” Hayes said.
The algae was an issue at Vets from 2010 through 2015. It led the KDHE to place the lake under a warning status that encouraged people and pets to avoid prolonged contact with the water, and eventually caused a massive fish kill in August 2014.
The waste from geese that landed on the lake was a key contributor to the algae. Officials also tackled the amount of phosphorus entering the lake through storm water runoff, which occurs primarily through the introduction of lawn and crop fertilizers, washing of grass clippings and leaves into storm drains, etc.
The City Council approved in 2014 contracting with CH2M Hill to remediate the problem.
Efforts have including noise makers to scare away the birds and doses of aluminum sulfate, or alum, that was introduced into the lake in April via oxygen diffusers. The non-toxic alum bonds with the phosphorus and algae causing them to settle to the bottom, allowing nature to take its course.