Clumps of smelly green algae collect on Ontario Beach in Rochester, N.Y., where Lake Ontario currents herd the glop into the corner of the beach and a manmade pier.
Algae accumulates at the beach and gets smelly when it breaks down, said Laura Ortiz, project manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s contributed to beach closings and has been a concern in Rochester for a long time.
But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came up with a solution: a machine to pump the algae from the beach out into the lake, where it will break down in the cold, deep water.
In July and August 2011, a team of engineers tested their idea with an algae pump on Ontario Beach, near where the Genesee River flows into the lake.
Bryan Hinterberger, a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, thinks the pump is the first of its kind.
“This project takes the artificially concentrated algae and puts it into the river current,” said Ray Yacuzzo, special assistant to the commissioner at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “Without the jettee [or pier] it would have flowed right into the river current. We’re putting it back where it should have been in the first place.”
Yacuzzo said a state law prevented them from pumping water over land and into the Genesee River, because it’s illegal in New York to pump water from one body of water into another. But if they pump into the lake where the river current carries water into the deep lake, they’re within the law.
“We’re using the natural flow of the Genesee River as a natural vacuum cleaner,” said Bruce Sanders, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It pushes the algae out into the lake, which does not return to the beach. It then opens up the beach for recreational use.”
The report issued by the Army Corps of Engineers said the pump would likely cut down on the number of closures at Ontario Beach.
“It’s a relatively low-tech, low-cost solution,” Sanders said. “It’s up to the locals whether they want to take the report and the results of this project and run with it.”
John Ricci of the Monroe County Department of Health said the county developers have not had time to review the report, and haven’t decided whether or not to continue pumping algae. Although the results seemed positive, cost would be an issue, Ricci said.