Pump sucks algae from New York beach

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.

This pump operated in July and August of 2011. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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.

Ontario Beach after pumping. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Ontario Beach before pumping. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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About Carol Thompson

Carol graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism and environmental studies. She reported for Great Lakes Echo from 2011 to 2012, and now works for the Peninsula Pulse in Door County, Wis. She was an intern at the Leelanau Enterprise and The Daily Green and contributed to EJ Magazine. Contact Carol through email at thomp872@gmail.com or Twitter @thompsoncarolk.

4 thoughts on “Pump sucks algae from New York beach

  1. Well, I think these algae pumps should also be used near the water pumps. This is because due to presence of water algae develops near the water pumps and make the surroundings dirty and unhygienic. It is also not good for the purity of water. For more information regarding water pumps, visit http://www.pjdore.com/services/water-pumps

  2. Great points guys.

    1) I can’t believe the Corp would not continue this. The algae has been a long term issue hurting what little tourism we have in Rochester. We brought out-of-town guests to Ontario Beach in July of 2011 to be turned away by the stench and green mat over the water. Where is Maggie Brooks and the Mayor on this?

    2) With algae blooms now common in Cones us, Sod us and, yes, even Canandagua Lakes, why are residents not demanding that politicians fix their lakes? They can’t like the green slime, no matter what their political viewpoint. Is the invisible hand of the market just going to ‘fix’ this?

    Adam

  3. Well Harold, I think we, you and I, know how the algae is originating. I’ll bet it is from fertilizers, particularly phosphorous, used on lawns and for agriculture. It is likely non-point source and even if it was’nt the Corps would be loath to stop it. That would be interfering with our nation’s economic recovery. Politicians everywhere are defining environmental protection as enemy number one in their attempts to fill corporate accounts in the name of economic recovery.

  4. If they can pump the algae out into the lake, why can’t they pump it to an onshore location where it could be trucked away and used to make compost? A more important question would be: what’s causing all of the algae? In order to effectively deal with this, maybe they should be addressing the cause.

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