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Martin County demonstrates algae removal process

Posted: 6:48 PM, Aug 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-23 22:48:25Z

A long-awaited response to toxic algae on the Treasure Coast is making its debut on the St. Lucie River.

“This issue has not gone away. I know that certain residents think it has," said Ed Campi, Martin County Commission chairman. "We take this as a serious health issue. It’s a crisis in our community.”

Martin County received a $700,000 grant from FDEP to pilot an algae removal project. They used that grant to hire AECOM to vacuum algae out of the water. 

"We have committed to our residents that we will try anything that we think will work," Campi said.

AECOM has been working on removing algae in Lee County on the West Coast of Florida. They plan to try out some different techniques in Martin County.

“We want to have an impact in recovering algae, but the DEP also wants to learn from this program, what is the most effective way to manage it going forward," said Bob Cooper, vice president of environmental services for AECOM.

Skimmers, which a man from Jensen Beach designed, will direct algae into a tube. A vacuum then sucks the algae and the water into a 500-gallon storage tank on a boat or in a truck.

“You recover it from the water. You store it temporarily. You transport it for treatment at the wastewater treatment plant,” Cooper said.

Toxic algae are known to potentially cause health effects when it becomes airborne, but AECOM claims this process doesn’t put people's health at risk.

“The toxicologists that have been part of the team both here and at the DEP’s team and at the EPA, do not believe that even our workers need to wear respiratory protection," Cooper said.

AECOM plans to launch the boat Friday to begin algae cleanup. They showed off the boat and how it works at Leighton Park Thursday afternoon, but no algae were visibly present there at that time.

People can report algae to Martin County for removal here:  www.martin.fl.us/AlgaeRemoval

Cooper said it could take a day or two to coordinate the response for a certain area after a report is made.