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Vets Lake off state watch, warning lists
new deh vets lake
Veterans Memorial Lake in Great Bend, long plagued by a toxic blue-green algae problem, has been removed from all state warning lists. - photo by Tribune file photo

 After years of battling toxic blue-green algae in Veterans Memorial Lake, City of Great Bend officials finally got some good news from state officials this week. They were informed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that the beleaguered lake was no longer on its warning or watch lists.

“We are happy to see this,” said Great Bend Human Resource Director Terry Hoff. “It is a good step in the right direction.”

The algae has been an issue at Vets since 2010. 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 last August.

“We are very pleased,” he said.

Hoff praised the support of the City Council, and the efforts of Public Lands Director Scott Keeler and his department. He also appreciated the work of the Wichita consulting firm CH2M Hill which helped devise a strategy to clear the lake.

But, “there always has to be some caution,” he said. “This is not a permanent solution.”

The waste from geese that landed on the lake was a key contributor to the toxic blue-green algae problem. Officials are also tackling 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 last year contracting with CH2M Hill to remediate the problem. 

“They helped us determine the right path to take in resolving the problems at the lake,” Hoff said. “The council approved the use of their services, and they did a great job in guiding us through this process.”

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.

So, from here on out it becomes a matter of maintenance, Hoff said. 

They will stay aggressive in keeping geese away and continue educating the public about how to keep unwanted nutrients out of the water. It is the phosphorus found in the goose waste and yard fertilizers that feeds the algae.

Eventually, it is hoped Vets will be “cured,” Hoff said. But, in the meantime, ”We’ve got work to do. It’s on-going.”