If you would enjoy a water quality challenge, the Everglades Foundation recently announced a prize for solving the problem of phosphorous-related toxic algae blooms at a cost that doesn’t exceed $120 a kilogram. The article "Everglades Foundation launches $10 million prize to clean up toxic algae blooms" by Dianne Lugo, July 21, 2016 has some details:
...Today, the Palmetto Bay, Florida–based foundation officially launched the George Barley Water Prize, with the goal of removing phosphorus from the water at a cost that doesn’t exceed $120 a kilogram. “It’s going to be hard to get there, but we trust that someone somewhere has the capabilities,” says Melodie Naja, chief scientist at the foundation.
The need is pressing. In May, Lake Okeechobee—the largest freshwater lake in the state of Florida—was hit with an algae bloom that extended across 33 miles. Unusually heavy rains forced water districts to drain other lakes and rivers earlier than usual to avoid flooding. That action funneled warm, nitrogen-rich water through the St. Lucie Canal into Lake Okeechobee.
Algae blooms are typically caused by agricultural runoff or sewage that dumps large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the water. The removal of phosphorus and algae is a long and expensive process. The Barley prize, named after the co-founder of the foundation, aims to find a better and cheaper way.
The competition officially opens today, and in 6 months the foundation plans to award a total of $35,000 to a handful of teams with good ideas. The remaining competitors will then be asked to demonstrate how their technology performs under specific conditions. The foundation will choose one team to scale up the technology and receive the grand prize....
Apparently one must do the development and submit a plan before being rewarded with money.
The Everglades Foundation website is:
The following videos show some of the problems that need to be solved:
A website for Brian E. Lapointe, Ph.D. (interviewed in the above video) is:
Apparently the Everglades Foundation has been criticized in the past for ignoring the effects of nitrogen run-off on algal bloom as detailed in "Everglades Foundation, Pied Piper of Humbug and Hype" By Nancy Smith, April 18, 2015:
...In December 1994, after a New York Times Magazine piece by William K. Stevens, "Will Remedy Worsen a Sick Bay?" -- a story questioning Florida's hypersalinity/just-pump-more-fresh-water theory for saving Florida Bay -- the Times received a sharp letter to the editor from John H. Ryther, scientist emeritus at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
"There is no question that the Bay is suffering from a bad case of eutrophication (excessive growth of algae) that has turned its once crystal clear waters to pea soup. It is the imputed cause of the eutrophication that I take issue with. The latter is not just wrong, it is completely bakwards (sic). The method proposed to correct the situation would almost certainly make it much worse."
What Lapointe had discovered more than two decades ago, and what was corroborated by other algal scientists in scientific journals and in in-depth newspaper stories was that the missing quotient in the Zieman-Jones hypothesis was nitrogen -- the chemical that primarily comes from agricultural runoff and sewage.
"Zieman and Jones were only worried about phosphorus," Lapointe explained. "They knew wetlands can clean up phosphorus. So they insisted the bay only needed more fresh water flowing through the 'Glades and into the bay to heal the reefs, get the coating of slime off them. But fresh water wasn't the problem. The problem was, wetlands don't clean nitrogen."
Nitrogen works in combination with phosphorus to create eutrophication.It's eutrophication -- or over-enrichment by nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and silica -- the chemicals that come from sewage outfalls, industrial and agricultural runoff -- that create sheets and blooms of algae that degrade and ultimately destroy life-giving coral reefs....
In fact, in 2007 investigative reporter KenWeiss, reporter Usha Lee McFarling, and photographer Rick Loomis of theLos Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for their series, "The Rise of Slime." The series covered research in the Florida Bay/Florida Keys region and based breakthroughs Lapointe's hypothesis.
But scientists Jay Zieman and Ron Jones had become so invested in their hypothesis that the bay needed more fresh water flowing south, pumped from canals in the Everglades Agricultural Area, that they couldn't -- or wouldn't -- turn back even when they realized they should.
"Between 1991 and 1995, when they were sending the greatest deluge of water south -- as they want to again -- the effect was horrific," Lapointe told me. "Because wetlands can't deal with such concentrations of nitrogen, the volume of water was sending literally thousands of tons of nitrogen into Florida Bay, and then, combined with the phosphorus ... algae blooms are nitrogen limited, so it was like we were feeding the algae with Miracle Gro."
Said Lapointe, "How bad was this wrong hypothesis? Some 40 percent of Florida Bay's coral reefs were lost in the blink of an eye. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in modern history."...
"What You Should Know About Florida's Algae Outbreak: A short guide to the slime that turns some Florida rivers, lakes, and beaches fluorescent green." has information about the causes and effects of the algal bloom at:
What are the health risks?
This kind of blue-green algae can be toxic to wildlife and to humans. Symptoms include skin rashes, runny nose, sore throat, allergic reactions, severe gastroenteritis, liver or kidney toxicity and neurological problems. Health authorities advise people not to come into contact with the algae.
Previous algae outbreaks have had devastating consequences for Florida's wildlife. In March, a brown algae explosion in the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River led to a massive fish kill. And in 2013, algae outbreaks were linked to the deaths of hundreds of manatees along the state's west and east coasts. More than 15% of the estimated manatee population died that year.
Where does it come from?
Fertilizer, inadequately treated sewage, and animal manure poison Florida's waters during each rainfall, adding phosphorus and nitrogen into water bodies, which feed noxious algae.
In June, a major outbreak of green slime was spotted in Lake Okeechobee, which sits above the Everglades in South Florida’s center, roughly between Fort Myers on the west coast and Stuart, north of Palm Beach on the state’s east coast. By July, the algae outbreak covered 200 square miles of Lake Okeechobee and the huge green blob was visible from space satellites....
...We challenged the “backpumping” of agricultural wastewater into Lake Okeechobee. Florida agricultural operations have been allowed to take water out of the lake, irrigate fields with it, and then pump the water—now polluted with fertilizer, pesticides, and other pollutants—back into the lake....
Apparently many have tried to solve the algae blooms problem before. So many of the problems described seem to have common-sense solutions.
However, with a $10 million dollar prize now being offered, perhaps someone will invent a solution that will solve the problems of algal blooms that result from human activities.