CAPE CORAL, Fla. – We get a glimpse of charcoal currently being used to combat an outbreak of blue green algae blooms from Cape Coral affecting 20 acres in the Borris freshwater canal system.
The canal system includes six freshwater canals located south of Sattlewood Farms, west of Trafalgar Middle School and east of Sandoval; where you will see warning signs warning of the risks. These warnings include not eating any shells from the Borris Canal system, swimming in the canal, or touching your face or eyes if you come in contact with the canal water.
After discovering blue-green algae last week, the City of Cape Coral is beginning to take steps to remove the algae from the system. Thursday’s actions deploy 100 of these charcoal screens that will remove nutrients from the system.
The screens span the algae-contaminated area of the canal near Veterans Memorial Parkway and SW 20th Avenue.
Cape Coral environmental biologist Kraig Hankins says the idea is that once the algae is killed, there will be an increase in nutrients in the water. That’s not a good thing, Hankins says, if not removed, they could fuel a future Caloosahatchee River bloom.
Charcoal screens, Hankins says, work like a household tap water filter.
“It works to remove about 95% of phosphorus, 90% of nitrogen, it will remove heavy metals if they’re in the system,” Hankins said. “It basically locks those things in and acts like a sponge. So it will cling to them. So we’re going to leave them in place for maybe 2 months. And once the algae is processed, the nutrients will be released and come into downstream. And we’re trying to catch it before it crosses the veterans, and it’s salt water.”
Hankins says it will be a two month process. Once done, each screen will be filled with nutrients, so they can be sold back to the vendor to later be resold to help with farm planting. They plan to resell the screen for $9 for $4.
As for the algaecide, a peroxide-based solution will be used, which acts as an oxidant. Think of steel or iron that rusts. The hope is that it kills the algae.
We asked FGCU Water School professor Dr. Mike Parsons if he agrees with what Cape biologists are doing.
“Yeah, because you’re dealing directly with the problem which is hydrogen peroxide overgrowth,” Dr. Parsons said. “And you’re dealing with one of the causes of the problem, which is the nutrients that led to flowering in the first place.”
Dr. Parsons, also a member of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, says he doesn’t expect the solution to harm or kill fish because it’s only made up of water and oxygen. but he says you still have to be careful.
“It’s like you’re going to overthrow a government and then you have a power vacuum,” Dr Parsons said. “Who is going to intervene? Thus, you remove all or most of the coccoid bacteria. You eliminate other microalgae, unicellular algae and bacteria. So who is left to fill this void and how are they going to change the terms then? Will it be for the best? Will you flower a different species? »
Dr Parsons thinks the charcoal screens, which remove nutrients from the water that could cause future algal blooms, show him that biologists in the city of Cape Coral are already thinking about possible future problems.