Healthier Water Creates Healthier Communities
Aquatic ecosystems thrive with a balance of essential elements like phosphorus. But when temperatures are elevated, sunlight beams down on a body of water, those waters move more slowly, and this necessary mineral becomes overabundant, it can create serious and sometimes deadly consequences for humans, pets, wildlife, marine animals, and the overall health of that water body.
After observing the sharp water quality diminishment in his own lake community over a period several decades, learning it was mainly attributed to septic systems and a rise in phosphorus, Paul Sutphen invented the Clear Lake Technology LLC wastewater conditioning system. This innovative way to improve water bodies has made such a difference in phosphorus reduction, the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection awarded a $137,025 grant in 2022 to a lake community’s watershed conservation foundation, which will enable further trials and a 2.5 year study of his patented Clear Lake System.
Phosphorus and Algae — A Delicate Ecosystem Balancing Act
Excess phosphorus is one of the minerals responsible for algal overgrowth in both salt and freshwater basins worldwide, including coastal ocean areas, gulfs, bays, estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, dams, lagoons, rivers, ponds, streams, and wetlands. Phosphorus may find its way to these places through septic system and stormwater runoff, sewage, natural rock and soil erosion, geese droppings, pet waste, lawn fertilizers, detergents, and city or agricultural drainage.
Many types of harmless aquatic plants, including algae, exist in harmony within the ecosystem as an important food source. Some beneficial types of blue-green algae like spirulina have even been embraced as a protein-rich dietary supplement. When the equivalent of a pound of phosphorus finds its way into a water body, experts say it can yield 1,000 pounds of algae. If this plant growth becomes unmanageable, the outcome can be negative, resulting in what is known as Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs.
Eutrophication Escalation: When Phosphorus Unleashes Algal Chaos
Eutrophication is the term that describes this phenomenon, which begins from an uptick of nutrients like phosphorus, blended with sunlight, placid waters, and increased temperatures. This recipe creates an overall threat to the survival of the ecosystem’s plants and animals because the surplus of decomposing plant matter triggers a rise in carbon dioxide levels, and downturn in oxygen. This environment permits HABs to lay stagnant and brew up cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green algae. These contaminants are harmful to the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, aquatic ecosystems, and drinking water. Cyanotoxins like microcystin are responsible for tainting water bodies, as well as droplets in the air, which can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs. Ingesting contaminated fish or shellfish can be another source of the neurotoxin’s entry into a person’s or animal’s body, inducing liver and gastrointestinal illnesses.
A United Front Against Algal Threats
The worldwide concern about HABs has become so prevalent, these cyanobacteria have been on the radar of agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Park Service, and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). State and local health departments, non-profit entities, medical and veterinary organizations, and other types of stakeholders, also have an interest in reducing the presence of HABs.
Beneath the Surface: HABs Submerged Socioeconomic Impact
HABs that have infected a water body have been known to spawn devastating effects on the surrounding communities at large. Local health officials are often required to ban recreational and business uses of HAB-polluted water bodies, impacting tourism, marinas, commercial fishing, and other activities. Officials will not reopen a cove or beach until regular testing shows the algal bloom presence has been reduced to a negligible level, with some shuttered for an entire summer season.
Cleaner, Clarified Water with the Clear Lake System
How does an individual, business, municipality, recreational area, or government entity begin to protect water bodies from the presence of HABs? One of the ways is to lower the volume of phosphorus from potentially entering a water body, through water conditioning systems like the Clear Lake System.
The patented Clear Lake System adds hydrated alum to wastewater in proportion to the phosphorus level contained in wastewater. The alum binds with the phosphorus and separates from wastewater leaving the tank, thus preventing phosphorus discharge to the septic system leach field. This system and method for treating wastewater is capable of removing up to 90% of phosphates and 95% fecal coliform, and results in less loading of the leach field.
The Clear Lake Technology wastewater conditioning system, which uses the same hardware as a water supply chlorinator, consists of a 30-gallon alum tank that lasts approximately two to three years. The hardware, which runs about $2,000, does not require underground connections, or involve property disturbances.
Read more about the positive impact of Paul Sutphen’s groundbreaking, phosphorus-reducing technology to ensure healthier waters.