Peroxide-based algaecide pilot program underway to combat blue-green algae

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Algae at the Franklin Lock on June 21, 2021.

More efforts are underway to keep our waterways in Southwest Florida clear of blue-green algae.

The state teamed up with Israel-based company BlueGreen Water Technologies Ltd. for a pilot program to take a crack at tackling our water crisis.

It’s a much different situation along the Caloosahatchee River and at the Franklin Lock compared to a month ago, when thick algae built up.

Now, we don’t see those thick, cake-like mats of blue-green algae, just some thin patches of green. But while things look good at the surface, the lock is still under a health alert, giving people reason to keep a watchful eye.

Brothers John and Eric Reuther came out to check out the lock on Monday. “We thought we’re going to do our little citizens tour,” Eric said, where the Franklin Lock was one of the stops. Adding, “My brother and I are very concerned about issues social, cultural, political issues. And this is an issue that’s down to quality of life.”

A quality of life that can be hindered by the health of our waterways.

Michael Parsons, Ph.D., director of Florida Gulf Coast University’s The Water School, is also a member of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

He says the algaecide “shows promise it can kill the algae, basically a hydrogen peroxide-based product. So it doesn’t really have a lot of harmful chemicals necessarily associated with it.”

Parsons said there is a caveat, though, “Unless you kill 100% of it, which I don’t think is possible, really, there’s going to be a residual algal population left that can actually grow back.”

According to the Department of Health, there could be something below the surface.

Parsons explained that microcystis can move up and down in the water column, “Often, it’ll be deeper in the water column, you may not even see it on the surface. So that’s one concern, where we talk about when we should put these advisories out, when should people take precautions.”

While you may not see algae forming on the surface, it can still be in the water.

As Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani will tell you, it’s not a cure-all for our water woes, “Well, you really can’t gauge success unless you have an area that we call a ‘control,’ that didn’t have the treatment. So if the control showed the same thing, as we’re seeing here, then you really can’t say much was accomplished. But we didn’t have that.”

He added, “The area’s currently posted as a health alert indicating toxins are present. People should avoid the area. So it didn’t really solve that part of the problem.”

We reached out to the South Florida Water Management District, and they said they’re pleased with the algaecide’s effectiveness.

When we asked about the ongoing health alert, we were told once the chemical is applied, the treatment stops the source of the toxin, and human and environmental health risks are decreased.

The topic of the algaecide treatment is likely to be brought up during Wednesday’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s scheduled meeting.

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