HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - An experimental project that uses algae to remove nitrogen from wastewater is now underway in our area.
Hopewell's Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is testing the method.
"We want to determine if algae, which is more or less our enemy in an aquatic environment, if it can be our friend in a controlled environment by eating the nitrogen out of our wastewater before it's discharged into the James River," said Mark Haley, Director of the plant.
Excessive nitrogen in the water can cause naturally occurring phytoplankton to "bloom" into algae and consume the oxygen in the water, in which then harms aquatic life and also shades the river bottom which destroys underwater grasses that are good for fish habitat.
The experimental method could be a cost-saving alternative to conventionally engineered solutions, which could come with a $100 million price tag. That cost would result in higher sewer rates.
"Any new increase to cost in treating the plant is passed on to the customer based. That's the way all utilities run, "said Haley.
The algae test run is being funded through a federal grant.
"Algae is just a different way of doing the same thing. We hope it will be a more cost effective way to do it - that's what we'll determine. It also presents the potential for turning algae into useful bi-products such as bio-fuel and green coal," said Haley.
By the end of this year data collected from the experiment will be evaluated. A decision will be made on whether this method will be used to treat all wastewater at the plant.
There will be an algae demonstration project ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. It will take place the city's wastewater treatment facility on Hummel Ross Road. The event will get underway at ten in the morning. The public is invited to attend.