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More algae mitigation under way in Cape Coral

By Staff | Aug 30, 2018

Two new Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved test pilot programs are in the works to potentially remedy the conditions of canal waters in Cape Coral.

One of these programs began earlier this week in the Cabot Canal, with the other in the queue, waiting for the right partner to join forces with, according to city officials.

“We’re excited about this,” said Jeff Pearson, City of Cape Coral Utilities director, who is overseeing the two projects. “We are cautiously optimistic that this will help get rid of the algae.”

On Tuesday, workers from Ecological Laboratories (ELI), an international biotechnology company in Cape Coral that specializes in the natural treatment of environmental issues associated with water, took samples from the dead-end Cabot Canal off of Everest Parkway to test toxicity levels in the water.

Residents were notified and signs were posted to give homeowners a heads up that the project was taking place.

“Reading from preliminary testing Tuesday showed high levels of toxicity,” said Matthew Richter, vice president and chief information officer with ELI.

A “water fence” was installed to section off a 620-foot long and 80-foot wide section of the canal to separate treated water from untreated water.

They will test both and compare results.

Thursday was the first day ELI’s Microbe-Lift product was applied to the specific area, which is designed to reduce waste organics, nutrients and pathogens that have caused waters to deteriorate in quality and color.

“The product is one hundred percent safe and all organic,” said Richter.

ELI will be testing its results in their own lab, an outside lab, as well as testing from the City of Cape Coral.

Treatment-which will be applied by Mettauer Environmental, a local licensed environmental treatment company in SWFL- will be done every three days for the first five treatments, then every two weeks for two months, followed by once a month, over the 180-day program period.

“Our hope and goal is to show a positive change both physically and scientifically,” Richter said.

ELI offered this trial program to the city at no cost after Pearson sat in on a presentation about the product and how it has benefitted other bodies of water and aquariums around the world.

This is the first time ELI has been DEP approved to use its methods on state waters.

Doug Dent, senior vice president of ELI, said the eutrophication of Florida waters over 50 years is the reason why these green-water events occur.

His plans to fix it?

“We can convert nitrate compounds in water, called denitrification, that reduces nitrates and bubble off into the atmosphere,” Dent said.

Denitrification is a key function of ELI’s technologies capability and water management efforts for restoration and control of green water events.

Besides an increase in water clarity, this process will also see a reduction in the foul, nausea-inducing smell wafting off of the Nickelodeon slime colored water.

“We want to restore the ecosystem through a natural, biological process,” added Dent.

Essentially, they are treating the water with a group of microorganisms designed to enhance water quality.

These microorganisms will out-compete the bacteria for food, starving them off and work to restore a state of normalcy to the ecosystem.

Dent advocated that though this may provide somewhat of a solution, Floridians have to implement better practices.

ELI is hoping this trial run will lead them to make a bigger difference for Southwest Florida waters.

“Ultimately, we want to get to the source, which is Lake O,” said Richter. “The first step is this test trial phase.”

The second pilot project in the works is a bubble curtain to be placed at a canal opening to try and filter out any floating materials coming though the waters.

“We would implement this to keep floating debris or algae clumps from coming down the river into the canal system,” Pearson said.

This curtain would potentially be placed at the mouth of the Mandolin Canal, the first canal opening north of the Cape Coral bridge, but nothing is set in stone, according to Pearson.

“Everything for this project is still preliminary, we are investigating further,” he said. “We still have some homework to do.”

These curtains have been used in the Florida Keys to some success.

As for the “vacuuming” project that started a few weeks ago, it will continue to try and relieve some heavily effected areas, including Cape Coral, this week, said county spokesperson Betsy Clayton.

“Lee County and the state Department of Environmental Protection continue to evaluate and assess the pilot program for blue-green algae cleanup and processing,” she said. “Staff also have discussions daily with the contractor, AECOM. The plan is for the pilot project to continue while state funds are available. The pilot cleanup project provides temporary relief for some residents, but the real solution lies in the billions of dollars being spent on statewide water-quality projects.”

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj