Lake Erie is experiencing increasingly frequent algal blooms. In 2011 it had it’s worst cyanobacteria bloom in decades. In 2014 Toledo, Ohio declared a state of emergency for 500,000 citizens due to high levels of algal toxins in the city’s water supply. Phosphorus is the reason why.
Some 11 million people rely on the lake for drinking water, and with a broad economic impact the Canadian and U.S. governments have responded. Agreements have been signed to reduce phosphorus inputs into the western end of Lake Erie by 40% over the next 10 yrs. Succeeding here is important as phosphorus management is a key goal in Lake Winnipeg, the Fraser Valley, Lake Simcoe, and other watersheds where water quality is a concern.
It is recognized that the agricultural sector has a lot to do with improving and managing their industry better. Waste water treatment plants, storm water overflow discharges, and other source points can make significant contributions.
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Let’s look at a few new technologies that are being developed.
Ostara Nutrient Technologies has developed a process that uses modern biological techniques that involve bacteria that feast on phosphorus. Phosphorus and nitrogen are removed from the waste stream, and through their process they are left with a highly pure fertilizer granules. These are dried and packaged as Crystal Green, formulated to release nutrients as plants grow.
Southern Ontario has a large concentration of greenhouses..many discharging waste water with nutrient concentrations higher than provincial water quality objectives. In 2014 the provincial govt. the U of Waterloo, and a few private companies banded together to address green house water pollution. the initial application of their work was proven to remove more than 95% of nitrogen and 60 % of phosphorous. If commercialized the new technology could be the answer.
Urban areas are a significant contributor to phosphorous loading. Pet waste, lawn fertilizers, and storm water overflows play a role in damaging water quality. Imbrium Systems is an Ontario firm that has developed a membrane, Jellyfish Filter, that filters out debris, oil, phosphorous, and other pollutants. Imbrium has also developed Sorbitive Media, a course sand designed to absorb and retain large amounts of phosphorous.
Understanding Lake Erie and Algae Blooms.
It looks like solutions are being developed that can enhance and support the natural processes. Sustainable solutions are becoming available.