Battling Blue-Green Algae With Bamboo Biochar

There’s been a problem lately with cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, affecting Florida’s lakes and waterways. Cyanobacteria are common in Florida’s freshwaters, and many species can produce dangerous toxins.

James Gaspard at Biochar Now has developed an innovative method for controlling cyanobacteria without introducing additional toxic chemicals into the environment. Biochar is a type of charcoal produced through pyrolysis, or thermal decomposition, of organic biomass. Biochar Now uses waste wood or bamboo to produce its carbon. Biochar has many industrial uses, including water purification.

The material produced by Biochar Now is particularly effective at capturing certain pollutants from freshwater. Gaspard explains what makes his product distinct from other types of lake remediation techniques.

“We have a very unique process to produce the carbon, and our carbon has unique properties over other carbons,” he says. “One of the properties we have is we bind nitrates and phosphates, we bind those nutrients out of water.”

The Biochar Now carbon removes those substances, thereby creating a less hospitable environment for cyanobacteria to thrive in.

“We create flow-through filters for lakes or streams or canals or whatever, and as the water flows through, even in a lake as the wind blows it around, we bind the nutrients,” he details. “That removes the nutrients from the water, and the result is the algal bloom goes away because there are not excess nutrients in the water.”

This process indirectly reduces the cyanobacteria by depriving it of vital nutrients.

“I don’t want to call us an algaecide, because we’re not,” Gaspard clarifies. “We don’t kill the algae. We, in essence, starve it.”

Some other forms of lake remediation involve using chemicals to basically knock nutrients out of the water column and into the lake sediment. Biochar Now actually removes nutrients from the water column, and then the polluted lake sediment will remineralize the water. The filtering process is repeated until all of the unwanted nutrients are flushed from the sediment and pulled from the water.

When the filters are subsequently removed from the water, loaded with the nitrates and phosphates they’ve adsorbed, they can be recycled into usable fertilizer.

Biochar Now’s extraordinary technique is being adopted statewide. The company’s clients include environmental agencies, municipalities, homeowners associations, and agricultural landowners. Any place where water is affected by nutrient pollution and algal blooms can benefit from treatment with Biochar Now’s carbon. The carbon they produce is even being utilized in a giant filter for a canal that empties into the ocean to prevent massive amounts of nutrients from entering the sea and causing the algal blooms that lead to dead zones.

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