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County approves test project to ‘vacuum’ blue-green algae from waterways

August 1, 2018
By CJ HADDAD ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lee County commissioners have unanimously approved a test project for algae clean up, as well as the filing of an application for state funding, in an attempt to relieve Southwest Florida waters of the toxic blue-green algae that has plagued various communities.

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners on Friday also approved spending up to $150,000, if necessary, before grant money is obtained.

"I'm glad they declared their emergency status which will allow us to have grant money," said Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello, who was in attendance at the emergency County Commission meeting.

County Natural Resources Director Roland Ottolini walked commissioners Cecil Pendergrass, Frank Mann and Brian Hamman through his findings from aerial pictures taken of the algal blooms across Southwest Florida and most notably, Cape Coral.

It was agreed that a short-term solution of sorts is needed to remove the algae in the most concentrated areas through a vendor already under state contract.

The biggest issue is where to dispose of the algae once it's "vacuumed up."

"The largest challenge we're dealing with at the moment is disposal of the algae and water," said County Manager Roger Desjarlais. "When that algae is disturbed, we're told that it releases more toxins and so the water that gets skimmed with this algae is probably going to be some pretty toxic stuff. We just don't have an approved method of disposal yet."

The Department of Environmental Protection is reportedly working hard to find an approved method of disposal for the toxic cyanobacteria.

"Until we have that method of disposal, there's no point in even getting started," Desjarlais said.

The experts stated that the collection and removal of toxic algae has been untested and that these test projects will be "charting new territory."

As for how they will remove the algae from the waters, "It's pretty rudimentary," Desjarlais said. "It amounts to vacuuming the stuff off the top. It's mechanical, it's pretty basic. The primary focus is a skimmer type of operation."

Removing algae where it is most prevalent and is at its worst is the goal of this test project - but it will only provide a temporary fix.

"The short-term solution that we speak of is simply to get the high concentrations from everyone's backyard. No one should misunderstand, that is not a long-term solution for reducing the algae blooms themselves," warned Desjarlais.



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