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CELINA — The latest pilot project to hit Grand Lake St. Marys kicked off this week, utilizing a water purification system that has shown past progress in the Deep Horizon oil spill off the Gulf Coast.
Mike Mangham with EcoUSA and Keith Boulais with Premier Materials kicked off their Kria Ionizer Wednesday morning near the city of Celina’s water intake area, and noted they had already seen an effect by that afternoon.
“In simple terms, what we’re doing is taking the water and sucking it out — which the intake is over on the other side of that wall — and it goes through an ionizing process, whereby it takes the oxygen out of the air, which has nitrogen it and deletes that, ionizes the oxygen and then pumps it back in down along here through a specifically designed nozzle,” Boulais said. “So it’s a high level coming in of the oxygen, and then that basically starts breaking everything down.”
The ionizer was set up at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, and it resembles a large blue box with two hoses. What is able to be seen by the public is a hose going down into the water off Lake Shore Drive between the lighthouse and Big Bamboo’s Dockside Grill.
“Within an hour, we started seeing minnows coming, which weren’t there yesterday, which means the oxygen is getting there because they’re coming for it,” Boulais said. “This is taking, and literally sucking up, and it’s going to break down the algae. But it’s also not only cleaning off here but that will also oxygenate the floor, the bed of the lake.”
Mangham noted the aerobic bacteria or the “good” bacteria live in the sediment on the bottom of the lake.
“They eat organic pollutants, so if you oxygenate the bottom, they multiply, the population multiplies, and they in turn start cleaning the water,” he said, adding the entire idea with the ionizer is that is goes back to nature. “We’re operating on the idea that Mother Nature knows best. The machine duplicates the natural process, no chemicals, nothing.”
He noted the process the machine takes: It brings in water from an intake hose while bringing in air through a filter. The filter removes nitrogen, creating virtually pure oxygen, which then travels through an ionization process, which gives the ion a negative electrical charge. The oxygen is then forced into the water through a specialized nozzle that uses extremely small bubbles to help with the absorption of the oxygen into the water.
“Once that oxygen is out there, that negative oxygen, it works on carbon,” Mangham said, noting by taking away the carbon, it essentially starves the algae. “It goes in, and it grabs that carbon, pulls it out of the pollution and that starts a stair-stepper procedure where the pollutant just falls apart ... For centuries, we’ve been able to mix chemicals together and make things. Now for the first time, we can take them apart.”
The ionizer pilot — the machine operates on electricity and is an automated machine — will run for three to four weeks, after which MAD Scientist and Associates LLC will do final testing.
“There will be a test to prove that the test really works, and then we’ll pull the machine,” Boulais said. “At the end of the three weeks, there’s a third party, independent test lab that Milt (Miller) and those people have hired, and they’re doing before what the conditions are and then at a week and then at three. So there will be documentation, it won’t only be visual, but there will be hard copy documentation that says here’s what it did, it really did work.”
Mangham noted as the days pass, viewers of the area will be able to see more fish.
“My experience in Orange Beach was that after about a week they had so many dolphins and other fish in there, sting rays and what not, they said it was like National Geographic,” he said.
Boulais added over time the water will begin to clear up.
“The test results will tell you what’s really going on, not only the visual side of it, but it will tell you the hard documentation,” he said.
Miller noted MAD Scientist and Associates has done consulting work with the lake in the past and will be the independent tester for this project as well.
“We just completed a round of baseline condition sampling, so we wanted to establish some transects out here off of this installation site to document what exists in terms of quality of water, sediment, etc., and we’ll be back out in another week, after one week of operation of the unit to collect another round of sampling with the unit, and then after about another three weeks, we’ll collect the final round of sampling and the Kria Ionizer/Premier Materials folks tell us that should be sufficient to show the effectiveness of the unit,” Mark Dilley with MAD Scientist said, noting they are working with Brookside Laboratories for testing the samples. “We’ll be interpreting the results, we’ll get all the results and look at them, but we’re doing the meter readings out in the field, collecting sediment cores and taking water samples, and those will be analyzed at the lab.”
Dilley said Streamside Systems, who works with the AiryGators and sediment collectors, originally contacted the company and they brought them in for a third-party assessment of water samples from Southmoor Shores.
“When these folks came from Premier and offered to set up this demonstration, Milt called and asked us if we could do the monitoring,” Dilley said.
Boulais said they approached Miller about a project after reading about the lake’s algae problems in a magazine.
“I read about the problem of St. Marys, I didn’t even know that you had a problem, but I read about it in a marine magazine and in that magazine Milt was quoted,” he said. “I learned that you go to the source, so that’s how we met Milt. And then he told us more about the issues and all the things that he and everybody has done to try to solve the issue.”
Miller noted every project on the lake has to have a pilot first, and initially there were 72 different vendors who initially made contact after news broke of the lake’s condition.
“We’re receptive to any kind of technology that will help on our lake, and shame on us if we don’t investigate all of them,” he said. “They continually bottle up, and we’ve developed a different posture in that our operation budget is on donated funds, so our response to all the vendors now is a three-fold state: You’ve got to do a pilot, it’s got to be tested on site; we have to have a third party validate it; you have to pay for it. Most of the time, the companies back away at that point. This company said bring it on.”
If they were to move forward and use multiple ionizers on the lake after the pilot ends, a 360,000 gallon/day unit — which is the one in use for this pilot — would be a cost of $299,000.
Earlier this week, warnings of algae blooms were posted at other lakes in Ohio, and Miller noted all the projects on Grand Lake St. Marys are tools to help the other lakes as well.
“We’ve maintained all along that we’re the perfect laboratory, and if people will just be supportive of us, and let us run the technology — we’ve already reached out to Buckeye Lake, Lake Erie,” he said. “We’re all in this together, we’re all Ohio lakes and we want the best for Ohio’s waters, and we’re saying use us as that test tube, and that’s what we’re doing and this is just one more step.”