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Environment


Will $150 million be enough to fight Ohio's toxic algae problem?
Local water treatment systems considering entirely new approaches rather than just upgrades
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
The blooms have plagues western Lake Erie for the better part of a decade.
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In The Region:

Water treatment operations along Lake Erie and beyond are welcoming word that the state is setting aside $150 million for upgrades to help them battle an escalating problem with algae blooms.

But $150 million may fall far short of what’s needed to keep the liver toxins spawned by the algae blooms out of drinking water.

Sandusky’s water treatment chief, Douglas Keller, says he’s been fighting the growing problem for about 10 years. Sandusky now relies primarily on alum, but Keller says his system and others are starting to consider turning the whole treatment system upside down, using something called a diffused aeration system.

LISTEN: Keller on new processes

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“The alum makes the particles in the water cling together and fall to the bottom. And that’s how we get the algae out also,” he explains. “We try to take it out as a whole cell so we don’t break it open, because that’s where the toxins are, inside the cell.

“This new DAS system uses air bubbles and it floats the particles to the top where there’s a skimming arm that comes through and skims it right off the top."

Keller says a big part of the fight is finding a balance.

LISTEN: Keller on the balance
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(0:26)

"One concern that we do have is the fact that if you treat for one thing, you may be hurting yourself on another problem. Say, for instance, I want to take the algae out, but I want to make sure that I didn’t do this with chlorine, which would increase my disinfection bi-products out in the system. So you’ve got to find some kind of treatment process that will take care of both.”


Sandusky’s is a relatively small system, processing about 10 million gallons a day. It’s midway between Cleveland and Toledo, which banned water use for nearly 72 hours two weeks ago after tests showed heightened levels of toxins.

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