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New Hope for Killing Algae Blooms

As we enter boating’s prime time for another summer, the hope that our waterways won’t be mired in green goop is about as slim as trying to find brain cells in Congress. Still, there may be hope, and it’s good news for the boating industry’s future that depends on clean waters.

Harmful algae blooms are plaguing U.S. waterways from the Gulf of Mexico to the lakes of Minnesota. And, deserving or not, annual summer blooms in Lake Erie gain national notoriety each year. But new technology being tested in Ohio may prove to be the key to killing algae blooms.

The discovery comes from the Water Quality Initiative at Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Basically, it creates ozone and injects it into a waterway in the form of microscopic bubbles. When these tiny “nanobubbles” burst, they produce hydroxyl radicals and peroxides. Those substances can destroy harmful algae and possibly help cut off the its food supply, preventing harmful blooms.

The lead scientist is OSU’s Heather Raymond, who is nationally recognized for more than 20 years of experience championing innovative, data-driven water-quality programs. In this case, ongoing test results will help the researchers understand how much ozone is needed, if the nanobubble technology can help prevent blooms, and if there are potential negative effects to other forms of life and the environment.

“There’s no question that this can solve a lot of water problems in the state of Ohio,” said Chas Antinone Jr., president and CEO of Green Water Solutions, an Ohio-based company that has a patent on the nanobubble technology. “Tests already conducted in Port Mayaca, Florida, and in the 60-acre Lake Newport in Youngstown, Ohio, were successful in removing algae and preserving fish life.

“We continue to test to find out exactly what levels of ozone in the water are still safe to those at the bottom of the food chain,” Antinone added.

Reports confirm that aggressive testing will continue before planned trials begin at Ohio’s state park lakes or public water system reservoirs.

“If we can also demonstrate that the ozone nanobubble technology helps reduce nutrient availability to harmful algae, that would expand its potential usefulness,” Raymond said.

It’s well-known that toxins released in bodies of water by some types of algae can be harmful to humans, marine life and wildlife.

Raymond acknowledges that it’s unrealistic and too expensive to expect to treat blooms on entire lakes as large as Lake Erie. But there could be another plan of attack. Employing the technology to attack the problem by treating streams that enter big lakes could ultimately prove to be a winning strategy.

It’s obvious for the boating industry that finding an effective way to end harmful algae blooms can’t come soon enough. While a definitive study by the Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida is underway to quantify the negative impact on boat sales in that area, it’s no surprise that dealers see some prospective buyers aware of the algae problem choose to walk away.

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