Plant mats designed to improve water quality

11 in stormwater treatment area in Palm City

PALM CITY, Fla. -  Mark Rufo runs a marine service business in Martin County.

He's always on, and in, the water.

Recently, he's seen some improvements in the Indian River Lagoon.

"The algae bloom is gone and the water is getting better," says the lifelong Stuart resident.

But Rufo says it will be a long time before the waters are crystal clear again.

"By the time the water gets good again, they'll figure out a real solution to this problem and we won't have this again," Rufo said hopefully.

In Martin County, officials are looking at a unique way of cleaning all the water as it enters the watershed and before it gets into the St. Lucie River.

This new project in Palm City includes 11 floating mats with more than 8-thousand plants.

"The plants on this side are salt tolerant, they are halophytes.  On this side we only have fresh water plants that are planted," said Dianne Hughes, the Senior Ecosystem Specialist for Martin County.

"The roots of the plants that are hanging down into the stormwater treatment area will pick up nutrients.  Phosphorous, nitrogen.  They'll pull 40-50 percent of the nutrients," said Hughes.

These mats, called "Beemats" are reusable and recyclable.  The North Florida company that produces them will maintain them for the first year.

The mats cost the county 22-thousand dollars.  A small price it says compared to the multi-billion dollar price tag of all of the major projects around Lake Okeechobee and whether land can be bought to move water south toward the Everglades as some would like to see.
 

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