U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tests Blue-Green Algae Removal System
Southwest Florida is in some ways on the front lines of the global battle against harmful algal blooms. On yesterday’s show we met an ethnobotanist who has spent decades, along with his team of world class researchers, exploring the possible connections between the toxins produced by blue-green algae and neurodegenerative disorders like ALS and Alzheimer’s. He was in town attending a water summit because as he described it this part of Florida faced a “toxic vice” last year when the freshwater blue-green algae met the offshore red tide bloom in the Caloosahatchee estuary.
On today’s show we’re going to learn about one approach that’s being tested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to try to stop blue-green algae blooms in their early stages, and actually use that algae to create products including biofuel.
The Corps is teaming up with an international engineering company called AECOM, and a laboratory called Pacific Northwest National Labs to test a system that physically removes blue-green algae from the water, and then converts it into products including biofuel. It’s been dubbed the Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Treatment, and Transformation System – or HABITATS for short.
The idea is not to wait until a massive algae bloom develops, like the one we saw last year, but to get to the cyanobacteria as it begins to bloom. The Corps recently conducted a pilot project test of the process in Moore Haven, long the rim canal surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
We're joined by Dr. Martin Page, he is a Research Program Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center; Dr. Linda Nelson, she is a Program Manager in the Corps’ Aquatic Plant Control, and Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Program; and Bill Colona, he is Senior Project Manager with AECOM.