'Water cleaning' companies test on troubled Indian River Lagoon

- The president of a company testing a technology to "clean the water" in the Indian River Lagoon says early results show his filtration system can remove of 97 percent of harmful nitrates.

"And what we have is completely biodegradable," said Hal Stuhler, president of Chemical And Metal Technologies, a bioremediation company out of San Mateo, Florida. "There's no absorbant that's hazardous, no heavy metals... and our analysis is telling us we are getting the nutrients out."

During ten days of testing at their Sykes Creek test sight, he says they've been pumping lagoon water at a rate of several hundred gallons per minute through C&MT's proprietary blend of sediment filters.

After three hours of pumping, he says the four treatment tanks, which are connected with hoses and mounted on a semi-trailer, have have removed harmfully abundant phosphorous and nitrogen in the lagoon-- from between 50 and 300 parts per billion, down to several parts per billion.

"We are demonstrating the process to show that this takes out the nutrients," said Stuhler, who says it hasn't been easy because of mechanical problems with a number of pumps. 

And over-abundance of nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen are blamed for causing widespread brown tide algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon.

In 2016, brown tide was so widespread and concentrated in the lagoon, oxygen levels plummeted rapidly killing many hundreds of thousands of fish in the Banana River in Cocoa Beach and areas surrounding Sykes Creek in Merritt Island.

Since then, Brevard County residents approved a half-cent sales tax to raise $300 million dollars over ten years for lagoon clean up. Some of the projects include dredging nutrient rich muck out of the lagoon, replacing septic and stormwater systems, and educating the public about minimizing fertilizer use.

But so far, there hasn't been a company hired to actually clean harmful elements from the water, which some scientists believe is caused by leaking sewer and septic systems and fertilizer runoff from stormwater drains. Brevard County Natural Resources Spokesperson Don Walker says there are private bioremediation companies currently testing technology to "clean" the brackish lagoon water, but as of right now, an affordable technology hasn't been proven. 

"We are not aware of a technology that can clean salt water right now," said Walker, who added there are many proven technologies to clean fresh water lakes and rivers. "But if this company, or some other company can show us it can be done, we would love to talk to them."

Stuhler says once his testing is complete, he will have his results tested by an independent third party before presenting his data to Brevard County.

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