North Carolina’s environmental reputation took a big hit with Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in February into the Dan River. Among other worries, large Duke Energy investors are now asking for a report by May 1 on what’s up, as discussed by the AP here. And the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has had some explaining to do regarding regulating Duke Energy’s coal ash storage facilities, such as failure to seek required stormwater permits at some Duke Energy Facilities.

Not as widely known, however, is North Carolina’s foray into dubious methods of treating the waters of Jordan Lake, a large lake near Raleigh subject to some nasty algae blooms. The upshot is that the state legislature put on hold rules for controlling discharges of nitrogen and phosporus to the lake, the chief culprit nutrients resulting in these blooms, and okayed “aeration,” or, rather, a mixing method to inhibit stratification as a treatment approach in small areas of the lake. Problems with this approach were discussed in a letter from local, highly qualified experts  to the Raleigh News and Observer, with the following bottom line:

Artificial aeration or circulation using “new” technology will not lead to meeting the water quality criterion in Jordan Lake; this conclusion is based on the results of many studies involving in-lake aeration or circulation technology.

It goes downhill from there. It was reported that one legislator, Sen. Rick Gunn

believes advances in cleanup technology, such as new techniques to harvest algae for industrial use, could be less burdensome to landowners than stormwater controls

This thinking demonstrates a marked misunderstanding of the algae business (such as oil from algae), which in itself is something of a dubious proposition to date. One doesn’t address algae blooms in lakes by trying to harvest algae. Algae harvesting, in concept, is a way of promoting algae growth so that various constituents and byproducts can be removed from the algae for commercial purposes.

Anyway, let’s hope for the best in North Carolina, and that evidence-based science will eventually prevail.


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