City of Jacksonville introduces innovative technology to reduce algae blooms

Specialists will spray nine ponds and take samples

City of Jacksonville introduces innovative technology to reduce algae blooms

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The City of Jacksonville's Environmental Quality Division (EQD) is launching a storm water pond study as part of its continuous efforts to improve the city’s water quality. Jacksonville will be one of the first cities in Florida to use Microbe-Lift, a blend of specially formulated strains of bacteria manufactured for use by landscape, irrigation and pond professionals. The purpose is to significantly reduce the amount of total Nitrogen in stormwater ponds.

From June 2019 to June 2020, contracted specialists will spray nine ponds throughout the city while EQD team members collect samples monthly to determine the levels of Total Nitrogen. A decrease in Total Nitrogen will help reduce the potential for the growth of algae, known for producing blooms that can be harmful to humans and marine life.

“Based on the pilot study we did at three ponds in 2015, we are hopeful for a 60 percent reduction in Total Nitrogen, which is more than double the amount a normal stormwater pond would achieve,” Melissa Long, chief of EQD, said.

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The City is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation, St. Johns Water Management District, Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to fund the more than $300,000 study with donations, grants and in-kind contributions.

“Protecting and improving water quality in the St. Johns River are among the district’s greatest priorities. This innovative project is aimed at developing cost-effective methods to improve stormwater treatment practices,” St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle said. “Working with local governments to achieve our shared goal of water quality protection makes good sense, and we are an enthusiastic partner on this project.”

“Jacksonville’s tributaries and the River, which are currently impaired for Nitrogen and E. Coli bacteria, need pioneering solutions to reduce pollution, preserve our environment, and enhance quality of life.” Alan Obaigbena, FDOT project management engineer, said. “As such, our agencies are collaborating to invest in a DEP-approved, but still new, technology to reduce existing pollutants in our stormwater facilities. We are excited and proud to participate in this ground-breaking water quality improvement project.”

The testing is being conducted in addition to the City’s traditional best management practices, such as septic tank phase out and street sweeping, and will contribute to meeting a state-mandated responsibility to reduce total nitrogen levels by an additional 53 metric tons before the end of 2023. If the study is deemed successful, the treatment process could be a more cost-effective option for the City.

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“This project is important because we have to look at every possible angle to meet our nutrient reduction obligation, which is the largest of any municipality in the state because of the city’s size and population,” Long said. “This might be a way for us to meet that requirement, reduce the cost of treatment and improve our waterways to give residents a better quality of life.”

While Microbe-Lift products are used without harmful effects in home aquariums and other lake systems, including The Sanctuary system in Jacksonville Beach, the City is advising residents to avoid the following treatment sites:

  • FDOT pond at the intersection of Alamo Street and Huntsford Road
  • City pond at the intersection of Kona Avenue and Century Street
  • FDOT pond at the southwest intersection of I-295 and Lee Road
  • City pond at the intersection of Ft. Caroline Road and Spanish Oaks Drive.
  • City pond just north of Ansley at Harts Road apartment complex at 11011 Harts Road
  • City pond just west of 7914 Pritchard Road
  • FDOT pond at 10420 General Avenue
  • City pond at 2581 Commonwealth Avenue (COJ Fleet Maintenance)
  • FDOT pond at the southwest intersection of Forest Street and Myrtle Avenue

Citizens should visit coj.net/MicrobeLift or contact the Environmental Quality Division at (904) 255-7100 for more information.

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