Pilot project at golf course seeks to curb algal blooms

[USA] For environmentalists, the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie are a menace and a problem.

But for the companies who banded together to install a pilot project at the city of Sandusky’s Mills Creek Golf Course, the harmful algal blooms are a business opportunity.

The companies are installing a new Phospho Reduc system that’s supposed to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into Mills Creek.

Excessive phosphorus created by storm water runoff from fields with fertilizer on them is considered a major factor in creating harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

The system is manufactured by Convergent Water Technologies of Houston, Texas, and marketed by Fabco Industries Inc. and Site Supply, Inc. Officials from the three companies explained the system as it was being installed Thursday at the golf course.

Register photo/LUKE WARK Workers fill in a hole of iron slag Friday afternoon as part of a pilot project to help filter phosphorus contaminants out of water runoff at Mills Creek Golf Course in Sandusky.

While the companies are an established player in wastewater treatment, the new product is an attempt to get a foothold in selling a system that will reduce phosphorus in storm water. The companies are donating the system, worth $30,000 or $40,000 if Sandusky had to purchase it, said David Batts, director of Convergent Water Technologies.

Water from the golf course will pass through biofilters with mulch in them and then pass through a mass of black slag produced as a byproduct from steel manufacturing which has been found to be effective in absorbing phosphorus, Batts explained.

The mulch in the biofilters has to be changed once a year, but that’s all the maintenance the system requires, said Christopher M. Helgeson, Great Lakes regional manager for Fabco Industries.

The installation at Mills Creek is a pilot project designed to demonstrate the system and provide an opportunity to generate sales in a northern Ohio region searching for ways to curb harmful algal blooms, the officials said.

Crystal Dymond, storm water program coordinator for Erie Soil and Water Conservation District, brought the pilot project to Sandusky when the companies were searching for a location.

Dymond came up with the idea of putting the system at the golf course. She worked with Eric Wobser, Sandusky’s city manager,  Victoria Kurt, the city’s parks director, and Aaron Klein, the city engineer. The golf course, owned by the city, is part of Kurt’s responsibilities.

All the city had to do was agree to dig the hole for the system, Klein said.

“We were told we would need to provide on day’s worth of work to excavate the hole and everything would be placed and back filled and the surface would be restored by others,” Klein said.

Klein was pleased that Convergent Water Technologies was willing to fly in Batts from Texas to install the system.

“I’m very grateful they are doing this. It’s a pilot project. They want to see if it will work,” Klein said.

“It’s a private-public partnership to try to resolve a problem,” Helgeson said.

Batts is the co-founder of the Texas Land/Water Sustainability Forum, which seeks to prove that business development which makes a low impact on the environment is good business and reduces costs.

A golf course is a good location to test the system because its grass must be kept in good shape, Batts explained.

“A golf course obviously uses a lot of fertilizer,” he said.

Another plus is that Mills Creek is monitored annually for water quality, Dymond said.

“They already have a baseline of data. They liked that,” Dymond said.

A group of volunteers supervised by Breann Hohman, watershed coordinator for Erie Soil and Water Conservation District, has monitored water quality for several years in Old Woman Creek, Pipe Creek and Mills Creek.

The results for 2013, released in 2014, gave Mills Creek the worst score, an “F,” because it had high concentrations of nitrogen and soluble reactive phosphorus.

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