Algae bloom on Thames River in Chatham on September 23, 2019. (Photo Ryan Carlow Twitter)

Work continues to make CK waterways healthier

Efforts continue to remove phosphorus from the Thames River and prevent algae growth in Lake Erie.

The Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (PRC) is moving ahead with additional technologies that intercept and remove phosphorus from agricultural runoff, noting that phosphorus contributes to the growth of harmful algal blooms in the Thames River and Lake Erie.

One of the projects near Prairie Siding, west of Chatham, has a removal and recovery system being tested that mimics the way phosphorus is removed naturally in iron-rich soils through the crystallization of iron-phosphate minerals.

“The Waterloo EC-P™ is a patent-pending technology with which we’ve done a lot of testing on sewage wastewater, so we know it will extract phosphorus from that,” said Christopher Jowett, Head of Technology and Government Relations at Waterloo Biofilter Systems Inc. “This is a different application for us, but we believe the demonstration will be successful.”

A shipping container with several tanks inside has been installed at the pump station to separate the solids and silt from municipal drain water and turned into crystallized insoluble minerals that can be re-used as a fertilizer on agricultural crops.

“We’re basically growing microscopic rocks,” Jowett said. “In other residential sewage applications, between 90 and 99 percent of the phosphorus dissolved in the wastewater has been removed.”

Testing sites have been set up in several agricultural fields in the Thames River watershed, the Lake Erie Basin, and in two municipal pumping stations near Chatham and London.

The testing will continue over the next three years. Canada and the U.S. have committed to a 40 percent reduction in the total phosphorus entering Lake Erie.