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Ohio State’s Mirror Lake drained for study of leaks, overflow

Mirror Lake was drained after the Mirror Lake jump Nov. 26 to help with cleanup efforts and to clear the area for a sustainability study. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Mirror Lake was drained after the Mirror Lake jump Nov. 26 to help with cleanup efforts and to clear the area for a sustainability study.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Cleaning up litter, repairing fences, replacing damaged grass and washing mud away might be the norm after the annual Mirror Lake jump, but draining the lake hasn’t typically been a part of the process.

This year, however, Ohio State is hiring a firm to study the area and decided to empty the lake to assist with cleanup and clear the area. The firm originally selected by OSU, which was founded by former OSU football player and assistant vice president for business advancement Eddie George, backed out of its contract to “avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” OSU spokeswoman for Administration and Planning Lindsay Komlanc said in an email Monday.

Komlanc said the lake was drained in the meantime while OSU finds a new firm because of the need for cleanup.

“Given (the) significant need for our landscape crews to be working in the area, the university determined this was also the time to take steps to minimize water loss associated with the lake,” Komlanc said. “As announced in November, the university is studying enhancements to the sustainability, beauty and safety of Mirror Lake, including water usage and maintenance needs. While the completion of the study will be the first step in understanding what is necessary to enhance the sustainability, aesthetic nature and safety of Mirror Lake, immediate water loss concerns have been addressed by pumping the water from the lake. This work was done in conjunction with the significant maintenance and cleanup after the annual ‘jump.’”

She added OSU felt the timing was “the best possible as we enter the colder weather, and now that we have officially reopened the South Oval.”

Jumping in Mirror Lake before the OSU football game against the University of Michigan is an OSU tradition. It took place Nov. 26 this year, but after OSU officials announced students would be required to wear wristbands and pass through fences for admittance, some students took to the lake a night early to show their disapproval of the regulations.

About 10,000 to 12,000 people participated Nov. 26 and approximately 1,500 people attended Nov. 25.

Four OSU students were arrested for disorderly conduct at the Nov. 26 jump, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email Nov. 26. He added that there were “minor injuries and nine medical transports.”

The South Oval was reopened before Nov. 26 after being closed since November 2010 because of the installation of geothermal wells that aim to improve the heating and cooling systems of South Campus residence halls.

Though the initial targeted completion date was September 2012, problems with the drilling method in relation to the South Oval geologic condition delayed the project end date by more than a year.

Chesapeake Geosystems, Inc., the company initially under contract for the renovation, was released from its obligations because of its ineffective methods. The project originally cost $10.3 million and was expected to pay for itself in about 10 years, but the budget jumped to $12 million because of the delays and was completed by Bergerson-Caswell.

A recently discovered leak in Mirror Lake and a continuous overflow problem led to the decision to put the area through the sustainability study, but the original firm chosen left its contract, Komlanc said.

“The contract with EDGE (Group) was issued through a competitive, qualifications-based process. However, EDGE has notified the university that, in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, they have chosen to withdraw from this contract,” Komlanc said in an email Monday. “The study will continue to move forward. The university is in the process of engaging another design professional to perform the work. We expect to have this confirmed by the end of this week or early next week.”

EDGE Group is a local firm of landscape architects and development consultants founded by George. The firm was set to help address several issues of the campus landmark, including options for fixing the leak, maintenance considerations and alternative sources to fill the lake, Aparna Dial, director of OSU energy services and sustainability, told The Lantern in late November.

Komlanc told The Lantern last month OSU was set to pay EDGE $24,000 to do the studies. The funds were to come from the President and Provost’s Council on Sustainability, which considers funding requests each year for various sustainability projects around campus.

She did not comment Monday on whether the project’s budget has changed at all given EDGE’s decision.

Komlanc said Monday the study is expected to return its recommendations in “early 2014,” at which point OSU faculty, staff, students and other partners will be consulted in deciding the next steps for the lake. She did not comment on when the Mirror Lake area is expected to be reopened and the lake refilled.

The total cost of the Mirror Lake jump, including clean-up, logistics, operations and security, is not yet available, Komlanc said.

The 2012 jump cost OSU more than $46,000, including public safety presence and repairs to the area.


Justin Cline contributed to this article.

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