DA has quality of SA’s water resources on its radar

15 November 2015

Aquatic plants are very important stabilizers of waterbodies (Photo: Bill Harding)

Water quality is fundamentally important to South Africa’s future (Photo: Bill Harding)

As someone who has beaten the water quality drum for many years (search this blog for ‘water crisis’ articles) it is always pleasing when politicians recognize the pivotal role that water quality holds for South Africa.  This topic is currently receiving increased attention due to the very severe drought conditions currently being experienced.

The Democratic Alliance has been somewhat quiet on water quality issues since the days when Gareth Morgan held the portfolio.  Today, however, the Sunday Times (November 15, 2015, pg 18, see following post) carried an opinion piece by no less a DA member than its leader, Mr Mmusi Maimane, entitled “So little water, so much poor management of it“.  To my knowledge, addressing such a topic is a first for any leader of a political party in this country!

The article reads, inter alia, that “[to] make matters worse, the quality of water is also declining. Our municipal waste-water system…is under extreme pressure, with as many [sic] as 90% of waste-water treatment works dysfunctional“.  Furthermore, “…possibly up to two-thirds of our national stored water resources in dams and watercourses is eutrophic“.  Here Mr Maimane is referring to the legacy of inaction on the level of wastewater treatment required to prevent South African reservoirs from becoming eutrophic, a legacy that persists from the previous regime of government (see review article here for details).

Mr Maimane correctly notes that, the dire circumstances notwithstanding, there is still hope for mitigation.  What remains is for the ANC government to stop denying that there is a crisis, stop focussing solely on water quantity and to move demonstrably towards the application of more appropriate science and technology for the management of South African surface waters.

(Bill Harding is a South African aquatic scientist with a long history of experience in eutrophication and toxic algae.  He is a Certified Lake Manager – a USA certification and is the only person so registered in South Africa).

Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #17 – Wastewater treatment

8 November 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

17. BioHaven® Floating Treatment Wetlands Remove Nutrients and Help Wastewater Facility Achieve Compliance

Scientific Summary

BioHaven® Floating Treatment Wetland (BFTW) Technology is designed around the same principles as a wetland. They are man-made floating islands that provide an optimal habitat for microbial and plant species. See Figure 1. Similar to a wetland, the plants and microbes improve water quality; however BFTWs enhance microbial growth by expanding available underwater surface area; i.e. microbial habitat.

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In fact, an eight-inch thick island covering one square foot of water surface contains 124 cubic feet of surface area. This phenomenon is created through patented island design. The result is a new and strategic means to achieve a concentrated wetland effect. Along with the nutrient removal processes, BFTWs also provide ancillary benefits for water treatment when launched into a water body. They immediately increase retention time as the flow of water is “redirected” through or around the BFTWs. The physical embodiment of the BFTWs also physically traps solids in the water body.

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Facility Background

The Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility has struggled meeting discharge compliance. Parameters of concern have been elevated levels of Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), and Fecal Coliform. Secondarily, sludge accumulation in the pond has limited the ability for the pond to provide effective treatment. Remediation of this problem would have required extensive dredging of the pond and would have placed a high financial burden on the Department of Corrections at a time when budgets were decreasing.

The Primary goal for this project was to find out if the BFTWs could help the facility achieve and maintain compliance by removing unwanted nutrients. The BFTWs were installed strategically in front of the in flow pipe to have the greatest amount of inflow water passing through the Island matrix and to slow the water as it entered the pond ultimately increasing retention time. This installation location allowed for the greatest amount of treatment opportunity. The three plant species included: Common Rush (Juncus effusus), Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), and Arrowhead/Lanceleaf (Sagittaria lancifolia).

Results

At the start of this project enhancing facility compliance was a primary goal. The data suggests that the Islands have met this objective. The average of non compliance events exceeded 5 and sometimes 10 per year in the 5 years before the installation of BioHaven® Floating Treatment Wetlands. Since the installation of BFTWs in March of 2011, there have been only 6 noncompliance events through May 2014, all due to faulty facility equipment.

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Table 1 shows concentrations of the three parameters of concern before and after the BFTW installation. “Before” data were taken in January and March 2011, while “after” data are the averages of monthly data from April 2011 through December 2012. It is assumed that the higher nutrient concentrations seen post-BFTW were also seen periodically before BFTW installation.

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After BFTW installation, the average percentage removal has been 74%, 35%, and 29% for COD, Ammonia, and Phosphate, respectively. This is significantly better than without the FTWs. The BFTW removal rates are substantial and are even higher than those measured in other case studies. Considering these rates, BFTWs can be sized to remove a given contaminant load (concentration and flow).

Conclusions

The total cost of this project was $38,017.61. This included the BioHaven® Floating Treatment Wetlands, installation, plants, and monitoring for one year. Dredging the pond would have had a much higher ticket price estimated at over $1,000,000.00. BioHaven® Floating Treatment Wetlands were installed for 3.8% of that cost; demonstrating their ability to help communities as well as, public & private industry achieve and maintain consistent compliance in a very cost effective manner.

In December of 2012, the BFTWs were completely removed from the wastewater pond. All prior vegetation was removed. The BFTWs were re-planted with Vetiver Grass and re-installed in January 2013. This was done in anticipation of a new study with LSU AgCenter. The chart below shows the Average BOD and TSS removal rates from January 2013 to May 2014. The reduction of BOD and TSS has been an average of 67% for both over the 17 month period.

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In June 2013, Louisiana State University AgCenter began monitoring this project for water treatment and nutrient removal. They will continue to do so for two (2) years.

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Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #16 – Odour elimination

7 November 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

16. Eliminating Odors Using BioHaven® Technology

Project Location: Marton, New Zealand

This case study summarizes results of a unique configuration of Floating Island International’s (FII) patented BioHaven® floating treatment wetland (FTW) technology to mitigate wastewater odor. This was the first application of FTWs specifically to reduce/eliminate wastewater odors, which also removed biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) at a high rate. BioHavens have now been utilized to reduce odors, remove nutrients and metals, provide wildlife and fish habitat, and improve aesthetics.

Overview

An existing anaerobic pond was receiving municipal wastewater from the City of Marton, plus landfill leachate and other industrial waste streams from a nearby malting company; the odor from this mixture created a major problem. The Rangitikei District Council attempted to mitigate the odor by operating six 10-kW aerators 24/7. In addition to high costs, the community still had to contend with extremely unpleasant odors when the aerators frequently required maintenance.

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FII licensee Waterclean Technologies offered to provide a guaranteed solution. After thoroughly surveying the pond to accurately map the concrete wave band around the edge of the pond, Waterclean designed and manufactured a BioHaven system to fit tightly over the pond like a blanket, to “seal in” the odor. The FTW was planted with native sedge, Carex virgata, a resilient species to cope with the harsh environment.

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Results

The “floating blanket” has been an outstanding success, reducing BOD from about 450 mg/L to 85 mg/L, an 81% decrease. This removal rate of 395 g BOD/m2/day has greatly improved effluent quality. Waterclean believes that all wastewater treatment is occurring beneath the island, as the root zones do not penetrate far into the wastewater. The water temperature is a constant 27oC.

Most importantly, all objectionable odors have been eliminated from the facility and shutting off the aerators has saved approximately $150,000/yr in energy costs.

Special Features

The project is a leading-edge application, as it was the first in the world to use FTWs in this manner. The Rangitikei Council wanted a no-risk situation, which required the Waterclean solution to be successful. The wastewater blanket concept was initially presented to scientists, who agreed that it would work in principle.

Conclusion

The Marton wastewater blanket has essentially formed a low-rate anaerobic digestor. It has provided a unique solution by eliminating odor, improving effluent quality (primarily BOD) and reducing operating costs. As of September 2013 (after more than three years in operation), the system is still performing optimally.

Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #15 – living shorelines

6 November 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

 15. BioHaven® Living Shorelines; BioHaven® Floating Breakwaters

Project Location: Louisiana, USA

BioHaven® floating island technology is an improved approach for protecting shorelines from erosion and restoring natural vegetation. This technology is variously known as BioHaven Living Shorelines and BioHaven Floating Breakwaters. The BioHaven matrix is a robust and flexible support structure for plants that has exceptional wave‐dampening qualities: instead of simply redirecting possibly‐ destructive energy, waves are safely absorbed. The matrix has a very high tensile strength capable of withstanding 90‐mph winds; it is designed to rise and fall with the tide, and will rebound if inundated during a storm event. BioHavens have been installed in coastal areas, ponds and lakes. Living shorelines are intended to:

  •   Prevent erosion and/or reclaim land frontage,
  •   Provide wildlife and spawning habitat,
  •   Protect property,
  •   Encourage recreation,
  •   Improve water quality,
  •   Enhance natural beauty and
  •   Reduce restoration costs.

Installing BioHaven living shorelines requires relatively little heavy equipment and less labor than conventional alternatives such as bulkheads and riprap. The lightweight, modular system can be assembled and installed with minimal disruption to the environment it is designed to protect.

Martin Ecosystems of Baton Rouge, a licensee of Floating Island International using the BioHaven technology, has developed expertise in designing, installing and maintaining living shorelines. Since 2009, Martin Ecosystems has installed living shorelines at three locations in Louisiana.

Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

At the nation’s largest urban national wildlife refuge, preserving marsh habitat is critical. Over time, low‐to‐moderate wave energies have eroded much of the shoreline. The cost‐effective solution chosen in August 2009 was to install 856 linear feet of BioHavens to buffer waves, increase sedimentation and grow new vegetation. Partners were the City of New Orleans, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bayou Land Resource Conservation & Development Council (a division of NRCS).

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Catfish Lake

At Catfish Lake, part of the South Lafourche Levee District near Galiano, LA, the levee base was eroding from daily wave action. In March 2009, 1000 linear feet of BioHavens were installed to buffer the waves, protect the levee base and provide needed vegetation. Selected plants were marsh hay, seashore paspalum and vermillion smooth cord. Both the BioHaven matrix and the vegetation serve as buffers between the waves and levee.

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In only one year, the vegetation has spread and is providing 2‐3 feet of vegetative buffer between the waves and levee base. Sections of the project where matrix was installed without plants have shown signs of erosion, indicating that plants are necessary for this application.

Isle de Jean Charles

Significant marsh erosion has been noted on this island on a saltwater lake near Pointe Au Chene, Louisiana. To protect the small slivers of remaining marsh from erosion, provide a buffer between the open lake and a road, provide a suitable environment to trap sediment and allow vegetation to spread, 1560 linear feet of BioHavens were installed in September 2011 and planted with smooth cord and seashore paspalum. Results to date show:

  •   BioHavens are protecting the remaining marsh from shearing waves.
  •   Vegetation is noticeably greener than the nearby natural marsh.
  •   New shoots and roots are protruding from the BioHavens.

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Conclusions

Three floating treatment wetland systems have been successfully deployed at brackish water and saltwater environments in Louisiana. Living shorelines have also been installed in ponds and lakes in Shanghai, China and Singapore. Results include erosion protection, wave mitigation and enhanced vegetation. This cost‐effective option was installed with no heavy equipment and little‐to‐no damage to habitat or the shorelines’ natural appearance.

Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #14 – mitigation of eutrophication

5 November 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

 14. Floating Treatment Wetlands to Mitigate Lake Eutrophication: Enhanced Circulation and Nutrient Uptake Expand Fish Habitat

Project Location: Research Lake near Shepherd, MT, USA

Simple, cost‐effective water treatment strategies show the ability to transform agricultural effluent into world‐class fish habitat. This case study discusses an ongoing experiment to monitor the efficacy of a floating treatment wetland (FTW) that incorporates air diffuser technology to lift and circulate water through floating stream beds within the FTW. This combination of FTW and efficient water circulation/aeration is trade‐named LeviathanTM, a model of BioHaven floating island, and represents a novel approach to address nutrient loading.

Overview:

Determining whether biofilm‐based microbes can set the stage for high fish productivity along with nutrient removal was a primary objective of this test.

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Wetland areas have been reduced worldwide while human‐caused nutrient loading has expanded with growing human populations. Mass‐production agriculture as practiced in many developed nations has contributed to numerous cases of hyper‐eutrophication in bodies of water that were previously low in nutrient concentrations. In fresh water, partly as a result of normal seasonal stratification, nutrient loading can deplete oxygen levels within the livable temperature zone for cold‐water fish species.

Floating Island International (FII) is a private research and development‐focused business. Over the last 11 years, FII has developed the BioHaven FTW technology, which mimics the ability of natural peat‐based wetlands to purify water. The Leviathan maximizes surface area and circulation, which are key components of wetland effectiveness. The islands are also designed to provide optimal perennial plant habitat. The Montana Board of Research and Commercialization, along with FII, funded the work described in this case study.

System Background:

Dissolved oxygen and temperature measurements taken on FII’s 6.5‐acre lake outside of Shepherd, Montana in 2008/2009 indicated that stratified water near the surface was too warm to sustain a trout fishery. While temperatures below the stratified warm water layer were sufficiently cool for trout, that zone contained low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. During late summer at this south‐central Montana lake, no strata of water could consistently provide the cool‐water, high‐DO environment demanded by fish such as rainbow, brown and, especially, Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

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Groundwater containing variable nutrient concentrations enters the lake at an average rate of 80 gallons per minute (gpm). Surface water also flows into the lake at variable nutrient concentrations and flow rates. Evaporative loss and outflow are balanced to maintain the lake level at full pool, which ranges between 29 and 30 feet of depth.

As the lake was filled, a series of BioHaven floating islands covering 5200 square feet of lake area and providing over one million square feet of saturated surface area was installed. Several islands were positioned next to the inflow to maximize exposure to the highest nutrient concentrations. These islands, in combination with the Leviathan system, were designed to maximize biofilm production and move nutrients into and through the food web as organisms attached to underwater surfaces (“periphyton”).

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Results:

A 1250‐square‐foot Leviathan system, incorporating floating stream beds and grid‐ powered water circulation, was installed in the lake in April 2009. This system circulates up to 2000 gpm through the stream channels within the island. The Leviathan was constructed of post‐consumer polymer ”matrix,” averaging 25 inches in thickness, with each cubic foot of matrix providing 375 square feet of surface area. The Leviathan pump enabled personnel to pull water from any depth and move it through the stream channels, exposing it to the concentrated surface area (containing a microbial biofilm) and atmospheric oxygen.

After 17 months of operation, water clarity had improved from a low of 14 inches of visibility to as much as 131 inches. The Secchi disk reading is now 228 inches (19 feet) during the winter. Simultaneously, the water temperature gradient was reduced, creating a larger zone of “livable” water for fish. Two age classes of Yellowstone cutthroat trout were introduced 13 and 14 months into the test. Through the summer of 2010, a favorable temperature/dissolved oxygen strata ranging from the water surface down to a depth of at least 12 feet was maintained as potential cutthroat habitat. One‐year‐old and two‐year‐old black crappies were also introduced two months into the test, and naturally‐occurring northern yellow perch were present in the lake when it was filled. All three species have flourished.

The shaded area in the first chart below contains favorable conditions (DO and temperature) for cold‐water fish, with a much larger zone of favorable habitat in 2010 after the Leviathan design was enhanced and additional aeration was installed. The second chart shows the extent of the larger zone of cool, high‐DO water that was available for fish in 2010.

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Fish catch rates and growth rates are now being monitored at the lake. Initial data show that experienced fishermen can catch up to one perch per minute. Visual observations from diving and an underwater viewing station indicate that perch approaching or exceeding the Montana state record of 2 pounds 2 ounces now inhabit the lake.

The research lake is relatively unique in that it supports fish accustomed to cold water (Yellowstone cutthroat trout), temperate water (perch) and warm water (crappies). Montana officials have made two unsuccessful attempts at sustaining cutthroat populations in an adjacent stretch of the Yellowstone River, which is located a half‐mile away from the research lake.

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The new aeration scheme in the lake improves water quality by incorporating dissolved phosphorus and nitrogen into the aquatic food web, in the form of periphyton, while limiting the growth of deleterious algae. Total phosphate concentrations are reduced from 0.040 mg/L to 0.025 mg/L, while total nitrogen concentrations decrease from 0.55 mg/L to 0.01 mg/L.

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Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #11- Bass benefit

2 November 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

 11. Floating Island Provides Bass Spawning Habitat

Project Location: Elephant Butte, New Mexico USA

The New Mexico Bass Fishing Association’s mission is to enhance bass fishing habitat and opportunities within the state. A subgroup of the association, Kids of the Southwest, undertook a project in 2009 to increase the bass population at Elephant Butte, NM. These youth partnered with the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, marina owners and other local interested parties after discovering a Floating Island International licensee, Floating Islands West, which has developed floating botanical gardens to increase fish and other wildlife habitat, along with providing water quality improvements.

Floating Islands West designed a portable spawning bed for fish that includes a cover and protection for the fry. After Kids of the Southwest arranged for the island purchase, they assembled the island, gathered and transplanted the necessary plants, filled the spawning beds with gravel, and used paddle boats to deploy the island.

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Kids of the Southwest is a Junior Bassmaster Club based in Las Cruces, NM, and is affiliated with Cedar Cove Bass Anglers in Elephant Butte, NM. The group strives to develop life skills in young people while educating them to exercise leadership and support for responsible recreational fishing, and stewardship of aquatic resources.

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Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland- Case Study #9 – marine applications

31 October 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

9. Marine Environment Case Study

Project Location: Elfin Cove Area, Southeast Alaska, USA

This case study demonstrates the capabilities of patented BioHaven® technology to function in a harsh marine environment. The purpose of this application, which was the first seawater evaluation of the BioHaven floating treatment wetland (FTW) from Floating Island International (FII), was to study plant survival, biota colonization and island durability under marine conditions.

Two BioHaven islands were launched—a large module at Port Althorp (the “Port Althorp” FTW) and a small module in a private setting near Elfin Cove (the “Hobbit Hole” FTW). The larger island was moored to a piling at one end and chained to a mooring block at the other; the smaller island was tethered to an existing dock with nylon line. The Port Althorp FTW was constructed as a dock, with Trex decking applied to the top surface.

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Results

  •  The BioHaven matrix was not adversely impacted by exposure to seawater and Alaska wintertime temperatures/wave action
  • Numerous marine biota, including mollusks, starfish, worms and filter feeders such as anemone, populated the BioHavens. Several species of kelp also took up residence.
  • Perennial plants survived the winter and reemerged in the spring.
  • Both BioHavens remained buoyant under snow loads up to five feet.
  • The BioHavens remained intact with up to two-foot waves. The Port Althorp BioHaven was towed five miles in the summer of 2009 to the Hobbit Hole location to replace an existing section of dock. It is still in use and performing well.
  • Boats were able to tie and moor to the BioHaven FTW.

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Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #7 – habitat for endangered birds

29 October 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

7. BioHaven® Technology Provides Habitat for Highly Endangered California Clapper Rail

Project Location: Oakland, California USA

BioHaven® floating treatment wetlands (FTW) can provide critical habitat for the endangered California Clapper Rail. BioHavens offer an effective habitat alternative to traditional islands or marshes, as they provide upland roost habitat during fluctuating tides and sea levels. Use of FTWs by the California Clapper Rail has thus far exceeded expectations.

Background

The California Clapper Rail, a chicken-sized bird that rarely flies, is found principally in California’s San Francisco, Monterey and Morro Bays. Population levels are precariously low due to destruction of its coastal and estuarine marshland habitat for land development and shoreline fill. Recent estimates of its current population and survival rate indicate a high likelihood of extinction without intervention.

Under recent climate change scenarios, sea levels may rise as much as 1.9 m (6.2 ft) in San Francisco Bay by 2100. For species such as the California Clapper Rail that require a tidal marsh environment, large changes in water levels may inundate its primary habitats and further threaten its existence.

A project team was assembled by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to address this issue. Project goals were to examine the:

  1. Effects of future sea level rise on the California Clapper Rail,
  2. Potential for improving high-tide habitat, and
  3. Effects of invasive weed control.

Arrowhead Marsh Project

Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Park was selected as the project site. Ten BioHaven floating islands (FTWs) were deployed in September 2010. Each BioHaven measures 2 m x 3 m (6.6 ft x 9.9 ft), is constructed of recycled plastic bottle materials, and is covered with woven palm screens (“duck blind” material) to provide cover. Plastic bird avoidance spikes were installed on two islands in January 2011 to deter use by predatory birds. BioHavens were supplied by Floating Island International Inc. (FII) and Floating Islands West (FIW).

Waterproof digital cameras with time lapse capability and motion sensors were set up on each island. A sub-sample of 11 rails was radio-marked and located weekly to examine survival and area use. The project is documented on the USGS web site, www.werc.usgs.gov. Project updates are available at this site.

Preliminary Results

Use of BioHavens by the California Clapper Rail has thus far exceeded expectations. The USGS team reports that clapper rails at Arrowhead Marsh quickly adapted to the presence of FTWs, with all ten islands receiving moderate-to-heavy use from a clapper rail population estimated at 30-40 birds. Island use by the birds tends to coincide with diurnal high tides, suggesting that the BioHavens are being used for habitat when the marsh is mostly or completely inundated.

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Implications of the findings to-date are that roosting habitats may be limited for clapper rails, not only during king tides (especially high tides) and periods of extreme elevation, but even during daily tides in the winter. Elevated areas, FTWs or levees may be used by clapper rails if located within their home range. Restored areas may be missing key features such as areas above the highest water tides, resulting in less use and lower survival by species vulnerable to predation such as the California Clapper Rail.

Possible sea level rise suggests that habitat management is critical to protect the California Clapper Rail and other species requiring marsh habitat. Sea level rise is likely to exceed natural island formation in many San Francisco Bay marshes, especially after the next few decades. The USGS study indicates that adaptation for sea level rise should include:

  •   Selection of marshes with the best habitat for clapper rails, and
  •   Management for habitat elements, including elevated islands or FTWs that provide clapper rails with adequate cover.

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Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #6 – wildlife habitat

28 October 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

6. BioHaven® FTWs Remove Algae and Create Wildlife Habitat

Project Location: Barrington, Illinois

This case study summarizes results of Floating Island International’s patented BioHaven® floating treatment wetland (FTW) technology to mitigate runoff from urban and rural developments. The Lake County Stormwater Management Commission named this project “Best Management Practice (BMP) Project of the Year”.

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Overview

As part of a negotiated settlement by Citizens for Conservation (CFC) with a subdivision developer, several ponds were constructed to capture stormwater run-off. This water then flows through restored wetlands for discharge into Flint Creek. To address high algae levels, several BioHaven® floating islands were built on-shore and “launched” into the ponds.

Prior to 2006, the two stormwater ponds were completely covered with algae during the growing season. Algae reduction through use of hay bales as a Best Management Practice was unsuccessful. The CFC’s goal was to transform these water bodies, located only 30 miles from downtown Chicago, into vibrant, productive wetlands in an urban setting, hopefully through the use of floating islands.

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Results

The large pond is about 1.5 acres and the small pond is about 0.25 acre. Each pond contains floating islands.

Dissolved oxygen (DO) levels greatly increased after island launching and subsequent plant growth, resulting in much lower algae levels and lower turbidity. CFC members note that most algae have disappeared and discharged water is much cleaner than before island installation. As the first photo demonstrates, plant growth on the islands developed quickly, a visual manifestation of the nutrient and metals removal occurring in and beneath the islands. Turbidity and DO levels were monitored but data transfer has been hampered by volunteer turnover.

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In addition to native wetland plant habitat, the islands also provide a key riparian environment in this quasi-urban setting. Sandhill cranes were noted nesting on the islands in 2007, just over a year after they were launched. The cranes have successfully fledged young in two of the past three years, even though coyotes and other predators are now abundant in the area.

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The executive director of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission wrote the following testimonial:

On behalf of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (LCSMC) board and staff, congratulations on being awarded the “BMP Project of the Year.”

Your efforts to improve the Flint Creek watershed is a history rich in caring for the environment, for those that live in the watershed and for the generations to come… In our eyes, the Floating Islands Project is yet another example of your vision for the watershed that ties in water quality, habitat and technology to create what is believed to be the first use of “BioHaven” technology in Illinois that can be replicated in other parts of Flint Creek and in Lake County watersheds.

Flint Creek stakeholders … are grateful for the work of Citizens for Conservation. Congratulations and thank you for your dedication to water quality improvements, and taking the lead on grassroots efforts that benefit us all.

Michael Warner, Executive Director, LCSMC

Biohavens – the only truly bio-mimicking floating wetland – Case Study #5 – Bisphenol removal

27 October 2015

The BioHaven range of floating wetlands, also known as floating islands, provides a wide range of wetland aesthetic, habitat and treatment options designed from nature.  DH Environmental Consulting (Pty) Ltd (South Africa) has been partnered with Floating Island International, the designers of the BioHaven range, since 2008.  Over the next while our blog will document some Biohaven case studies.

5. Floating Treatment Wetlands May Remove BPA

Project Location: Test Tanks, Billings, Montana USA

This case study suggests that BioHaven floating island technology can reduce concentrations of the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol-A (BPA) in water. It appears likely that a microbial biofilm growing on and around the island in this study degraded BPA below the initial concentration of 50 ng/L.

Overview

One of the most common estrogen mimickers is known as Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical commonly used in production of plastics and epoxy resins. BPA has been directly linked to gender ambiguity in fish. BPA is one of many man-made chemicals that have been recently detected in the nation’s waterways through use of more sensitive analytical techniques. Along with pharmaceuticals, concentrations of estrogens and their mimickers have been detected well above background levels.

Previous studies showed that BioHaven floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) will remove contaminants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total suspended solids (TSS) and propylene glycol from water. The focus of this test was to determine whether a BioHaven could reduce levels of BPA, as measured by gill flares exhibited by male betta (beta) fish.

Background

In 2008, two Billings West High School students, along with their academic advisor, began studying the behavioral effects of estrogen sulfate and BPA. Their initial data showed that either chemical reduced aggression levels of male Betta splendens, the Siamese fighting fish commonly known as betta fish. The focus of their last test was to investigate the effects BPA has on the aggression levels of male bettas in the presence of a BioHaven.

Two small BioHavens (approximately 2 feet long x 1 feet wide x 6 inches thick) were planted with potting soil and a wildflower mix. After the FTWs were grown for two weeks, BPA was added to water at a concentration of 50 ng/L. The following test conditions were run:

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Condition 4 was the actual experiment with BPA in the presence of the FTW, with the other three conditions serving as controls. To measure gill flaring, male betta fish (three per condition) were exposed to a mirror for two minutes while gill flares were tallied. It was beyond the scope and budget of the test to directly monitor BPA concentrations.

Results

Condition 1, the first of the three control groups, did not contain BPA or an FTW. This group exhibited an average of 20 gill flares in two minutes, which is consistent with data collected in an earlier study. Therefore, 20 gill flares was the baseline.

Condition 2 contained BPA with no FTW. Results from this test agreed with the previous year’s data, in that gill flares were reduced from 20 to an average of 6. A standard t-test showed that this was a statistically significant difference at a 95% confidence level. In condition 3, with an FTW but no BPA, male bettas exhibited an average of 19 gill flares per two-minute time trial, which is statistically equivalent to the baseline.

The experimental group (condition 4) exhibited significantly fewer gill flares after one day of exposure to BPA, similar to condition 2. After three days, however, the male betta aggression level (as measured by gill flaring) steadily rose until reaching the baseline of approximately 20 flares in two minutes. The experiment was repeated a week later, with very similar results.

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Conclusions

This test confirmed earlier findings that the presence of BPA in water at a concentration of 50 ng/L significantly reduces aggression levels of male betta fish, as measured by the number of gill flares. The test also showed, in two replicates, that aggression levels increased to normal in the presence of a BioHaven floating treatment wetland (FTW). One possible explanation is that roots of the plants growing on the BioHaven absorbed BPA, thereby removing it from the aquatic system. A more likely explanation, based on previous FTW experience, is that the microbial biofilm growing in and around the BioHaven degraded the BPA. This could be confirmed by repeating the experiment and chemically analyzing for BPA.

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