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Technology

Fighting algae blooms with tiny bubbles1

August 5, 2018
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

NABAS Technology and Solitude Lake Management are working on a pond on the edge of Lexington County Club to get rid of toxic cyanobacteria algae and raise the oxygen level. NABAS is using a device that propels nanobubbles into the water. The pipe on the left brings the pond water into the NABAS system, then the pipe on the right pumps the water infused with the nanobubbles back into the pond to do its work. The bubbles are small and collapse under the pressure of the lake water, releasing oxygen and ozone to make the water uninhabitable for algae. Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today

Bill Smith writes in the Fort Myers News-Press that, as Florida’s Lee County begins its effort to remove and destroy the blue-green algae that has poisoned Southwest Florida waterways, some scientists and entrepreneurs are testing a new technology on an eight-acre pond bordering a south Fort Myers golf course.

The Nano Air Bubble Aeration System, or NABAS, was developed in South Korea. The technology blasts millions of tiny bubbles filled with oxygen or ozone into a body of water. The bubbles collapse, releasing a payload of oxygen and ozone that kills the algae.

“It’s a technology that was developed and has been working very successfully for many years in South Korea,” said Roger Strelow, who served as assistant administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a presidential appointee in the 1970s. “All the research says it stands apart very clearly as the most outstanding solution.”

NABAS Technology, of Rockville,Maryland, which holds the rights to use the patented technology, has been called in to attack the algae in Lexington’s ponds, a small-scale project that company CEO Ben Lee sees as a demonstration.

The key lies in the microscopic side the nanobubble walls. “Your hair measures 40-50 microns on average,” Mr. Lee says. “If a bubble is less than 20 microns, it implodes from the pressure of water.”

Mr. Lee’s company has developed a mixing panel that regulates the oxygen, ozone and air in the tiny bubbles. The oxygen and ozone are key to killing the algae and treating the water.

There are skeptics about the process in the scientific community, a skepticism rooted in years of grappling with the complexity of trying to kill algae and obliterate its poisons without leaving a residue that could feed another outbreak. Scientists are looking for longer-term benefits on a larger scale.

One concern is over the removal of the residue left as the algae dies. “You can very easily get spectacular results,” said Serge Thomas, an aquatic ecologist and assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. “It will be temporary because you haven’t solved the problem, which is the nutrients that fuel the algae — we want technology that would not only remove the algae but also remove the nutrients.”

“It will be 20 years before we can fix nutrient problems, so we have to do something about the algae to lessen the impact on wildlife and humans,” said Bill Kurth, of Cape Coral, Florida regional director for Solitude Lake Management. “The long-term goal should be remediating the nutrients.”

Mr. Lee said the technology his company provides can be expanded to a greater scale on larger bodies of water. Smaller nanobubble infusing units could be rotated among different bodies of water where the nanobubbles can treat and eventually help prevent algae blooms.

County officials have referred to the effort as a “pilot project” to stress that the solution to the algae infestation is developing as the problem is attacked. Mr. Strelow said expanded use of the technology is well worth trying in Southwest Florida. “Sometimes here in the U.S., we only look at our own experience,”  he said. “This has a substantial history in Korea.”

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