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Testing a new technique to remove algae and excess nutrients in the Caloosahatchee River

Posted: 6:00 PM, Aug 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-20 02:07:44Z

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Algae blooms continue to crop up in Southwest Florida waterways, but we’re learning that there’s new technology which might help remove it faster.

Fox 4 went out on the Caloosahatchee River with a team of scientists and experts on Friday to find out if it actually works.

It’s called Aquaflex, and it’s a type of foam that works just like a sponge to soak up nutrients out of the water.  It’s been effective in several states in dozens of disasters.

“My entire life and business was wiped out in oil contamination flood waters in 2006,” says founder Scott Smith, who invented Aquaflex to help remove contaminated water.

“I could not believe that there were no simple technologies to remove oil and water.”

So he came up with this.  “It’s made of a foam that at a molecular level it attracts oil like a magnet and repels clear water.”

It’s also proven to remove excess nutrients.

“Which is why we found it promising and we like the idea that it would physically remove the nutrients from the waterway permanently,” says Jennifer Hecker, executive director of Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.

But this is the first time they’re using it to try to remove toxins.  “We want to physically remove it from the river, which will hopefully lower those nutrient levels and prevent blooms in the future,” says Hecker.

They provided video showing a team of scientists and experts testing out the foam mats Thursday in a different part of the river.  In just a few hours, they say it absorbed a lot of bacteria.

“And then that matting can be disposed of more easily than other types of technologies which create a lot of wastewater byproduct,” says Hecker.

The foam will go to a waste facility to be burned.

The idea is less polluting and more effective.  The goal is clean water by taking out the excessive nutrients.

“If you take those out of the water, you can prevent and hopefully mitigate the algae outbreak,” says Smith.

Right now, they are seeking state and county funds to do a trial run.  “And do water quality samples with FGCU pre and post deployment,” says Hecker.

They say once they get the money, they will start the trial run right away.