Algal problems hotting up in Oz

16 November 2011

As we move into summer, we start to see more press reports from Australia and New Zealand dealing with algal blooms.  Warnings have been issued for Lake Moondarra in Northern Queensland and renewed research is taking place at Roebuck Bay in Western Australia.

The Mount Isa Water Board closed Lake Moondarra to swimmers and recreational users in November 2008 because of the level of blue-green algae and reopened it again in January 2009 after rains brought down the levels.  The water board has placed blue-green algae dial indicators at the first cattle grid and front gate to Lake Moondarra and urged members of the public to pay attention to the indicators.

In the US, officials in Milwaukee are making plans to limit, reduce and manage the levels of pollution that damage their waterways.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has hired the consulting firm Camp Dresser & McKee to determine total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs, for three common contaminants: the nutrient phosphorus; fecal coliform bacteria; and suspended solids, such as soil particles.

The federal Clean Water Act requires states to analyze loadings of pollutants causing impairments in waterways, from nuisance algae blooms and muddy water to risk of public exposure to illness-causing pathogens. The TMDL is the maximum amount of a specific pollutant that can be received by a waterbody and still meet water quality standards.

New York is reportedly making similar efforts using a full-on “green strategy”:

Every year nearly 30 billion gallons of wastewater filled with untreated sewage and pollution overflows into New York City’s waterways. Last week New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Environmental Protection unveiled a proposal for a new “NYC Green Infrastructure Plan” to help reduce the city’s serious sewage overflow problem.

The proposal has two key components: widespread use of green infrastructure in public spaces — such as green roofs, parks, tree boxes, roadside plantings, porous pavement in parking lots, cisterns, and rain barrels — as well as the establishment of design requirements for developers to ensure that all private property projects manage a minimum volume of stormwater on site. Green infrastructure not only naturally absorbs excess stormwater and thereby reduces runoff and sewage overflow, but it also improves the city’s livability by adding more greenery, boosting local jobs, and leading to cooler overall temperatures. Bloomberg proposes these measures, alongside improving existing ‘gray infrastructure’ such as storage tanks and tunnels. It’s a hybrid strategy that the city believes is cheaper and more efficient than simply building more traditional infrastructure.

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