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Algae-cleaning tech gears up in Florida

July 10, 2016

A mobile water treatment system by Stuart-based Ecosphere Technologies treats 4,000 gallons of water per minute. Highly oxygenated, treated water is returned back into the marina. Photo: Molly Bartels/Treasure Coast Newspapers

A mobile water treatment system by Stuart-based Ecosphere Technologies treats 4,000 gallons of water per minute. Highly oxygenated, treated water is returned back into the marina. Photo: Molly Bartels/Treasure Coast Newspapers

Tyler Treadway of TCPalm reports on technology joining the fight in response to the Florida algae blooms. He watches, as water from a boat basin topped with several inches of foul-smelling algae is pumped into the back of a tractor-trailer rig through one pipe, another pipe sending water out from the rig and back into the basin. The water coming out appears clean, with a slight greenish-brown tinge.

On Saturday, Stuart, Florida-based Ecosphere Technologies cranked up a high-tech system to clear algae out a football-field-sized basin on the St. Lucie River’s north shore. Company officials hope to show they can clean up the massive algae bloom that’s choking the entire river, killing water-based businesses and threatening the health of anyone who touches the water or breathes its noxious fumes.

“We can provide immediate relief in a localized area,” said Corey McGuire, Ecosphere marketing director, “and we have the potential to treat the water as it flows along the C-44 Canal out of Lake Okeechobee to the river.”

Each tractor-trailer unit, called an Ozonics High-Volume Mobile Water Treatment System, can treat 4,000 gallons of algae-filled water a minute. That’s about 5.75 million gallons a day. Water currently is flowing along the canal at a rate of about 750 million gallons a day. “We’d need several units along the canal,” Mr. McGuire said.

Ecosphere, which has around 50 employees, has produced 60 mobile treatment units in the past five years. The firm works mostly with oil and gas companies, cleaning algae out of detention ponds.

“We can call in as many units as we need,” McGuire said. “This is an emergency situation.”

How it works:

As algae-filled water enters the unit, first it’s pushed through blades that chop it up. Then it’s hit with electricity and high-frequency sound waves. Mr. McGuire declined to specify the voltage and frequency as proprietary information. “The algae cells literally explode inside the reactor,” he said.

Then the water is pumped full of ozone. The four-step process kills the algae, bacteria and toxins, he said, with no chemicals and no massive piles of algae to send to the landfill. “Everything that goes in comes back out,” he said. “only it’s free of algae and bacteria.”

The company plans to bring in a turret to spray the cleaned water on top of the remaining algae. “The oxygenated water will help break down the algae,” Mr. McGuire said, “and loosen chunks in corners of the basin so all the algae will get sucked through the treatment system.” “Water samples taken before and after the process will show how much algae, bacteria and toxins were killed,” he said.

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