Army Corps experiment to clean algae from the water

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Algae being processed in a machine. (Credit: WINK News)
Algae being processed in a machine. (Credit: WINK News)

We haven’t seen blue-green algae like we did last year and researchers want to keep it that way.

“We’ve been blessed this year,” said Brian Hamman, vice-chairperson of the Lee County Commission. “We haven’t had a lot of algae this year.”

Although we have not had algae blooms in our area like last summer, researchers are experimenting with methods should they return.

“The ultimate goal would be to remove nutrients before they come into the lake,” said Dan Levy, with AECOM, “Also, to help when the nutrients are in the lake.”

Groups like the Army Corps of Engineers, AECOM and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, are getting ahead of the problem in a new experiment.

“We’re out here demonstrating the HABITATS project,” said Dr. Martin Page, a manager in the HABITATS project.

HABITATS stands for Harmful Algal Bloom Interception, Treatment And Transformation System. While the project is still in its early stages, Levy said the research looks promising. It shows that the process is working.

The process has three significant steps, two of which are done in Moore Haven. First, the algae will get intercepted and then it makes its way to the second step, which is treatment.

During the treatment stage, clean water is returned to the environment once algae are removed. Then, the algae will eventually be turned into something useful.

“We’re taking the algae while it’s still wet and converting it into a bio-crude oil,” said John Holladay, with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Then, also demonstrating that we can upgrade the bio-crude oil into a high-quality diesel fuel and high-quality jet fuel.”

“At ALGIX, we’ve created BLOOM,” said Ryan Hunt, co-founder and CTO at ALGIX. “BLOOM is a biomaterial that’s made from algae.”

That can be used to make foams in sandals and shoes. However, no matter the use, the project’s goal is to stop the problem before it starts again.

“I’m hoping that we can continue to get funding and continue to do these tests, so that when we do have another algae crisis,” Hamman said, “we will have a solution that can clean up the water and make sure that we don’t have all that gunk in our backyard canals anymore.”

The pilot system can handle 100 gallons a minute. But, it has the potential to be built to a size where it can do 100 million gallons a day.

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