Farm 'Treatment Train' May Be Key To Preventing Algal Blooms At East Fork
Even the U.S. EPA is noticing Clermont County's innovative approach in efforts to prevent toxic algal blooms. Its Undersecretary has visited the site. The project involves a Jackson Township farm, a cover crop and an excavated waterway that captures pollutants miles before they reach East Fork Lake.
For the last six years swimmers at East Fork Lake (Harsha Lake) have become all too familiar with the danger. Farm run-off is blamed for high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus which are harmful for people and aquatic life.
One solution may be fifteen miles away on a farm.
That's where the Clermont County Soil and Water Conservation District is testing a system it designed to "cover and capture" the fertilizer.
The District began planning the preventative system in 2014 even before algal blooms were a problem at East Fork. It turns out the idea, modeled after an urban one in the North Eastern U.S., is very effective. In the last three years it has captured 46 percent of the nitrogen, preventing it from going into a tributary to East Fork Lake.
Here's how the system-collectively called a "treatment train," works:
Nitrogen and Phosphorus run through a detention pond filled with gravel. It holds the water for a short period of time and lets the sediment settle out.
The remaining water and sediment is slowly filtered out through a pipe to a submerged vegetation that is downstream and that's where the nitrogen treatment takes place. The submerged plants consist of rushes, sedges and iris.
The District's Laura Lair regularly checks water samples to make sure the system is still working. It is refrigerated to preserve the samples.
The USDA must still approve the idea. When it does, it's expected farmers can get money to install it. And the more farmers using it, the better says the Soil and Water Conservation District.