2) Combatting algae blooms: how can technology and a 10 M$ prize help?

Phosphorus is an important nutrient necessary to sustain a high food production for a growing world population. However, sources of phosphate rock are finite and much of the phosphorus ends up in our surface water. There it is the main cause for eutrophication and (toxic) algae blooms. Severe algae blooms are experienced all around the globe, most notably in the Great Lakes in the United States, Florida, the Yellow Sea in China and the Baltic Sea in Europe. To combat this, phosphorus needs be removed to very low concentrations at a reasonable cost.
The Everglades Foundation has taken up this challenge and has commissioned a 10 M$ prize contest to find technologies that can contribute to solve this challenge. They have set challenging goals for the technology and currently nine participants have tested their technologies in a 3 month pilot stage in Canada.
In this session we discuss the background and the reasons for this challenge as well as the progress that has been made so far. Together with the participants in the session we can discuss how such technologies could be applied in actual applications.


Melodie Naja, Everglades Foundation:

Phosphorus contamination of freshwater ecosystems is a rapidly growing environmental crisis of international significance. Ecological impacts include changes in species composition, harmful algal blooms, depleted oxygen, fish kills, and ecosystem collapse. Currently, no cost-effective process exists for removing excess phosphorus from natural water bodies on a large scale. In 2016, the Everglades Foundation launched the George Barley Water Prize to incentivize visionaries capable of developing such a process with an unprecedented $10 million prize.
Competitors are participating in four different stages of competition, designed to mimic the natural stages of technological development. Stages 1, 2 and 3 have concluded, and we just started to prepare for the final stage. 104 teams from 13 different countries applied through the first two stages of the Prize. From these teams, 10 were selected to compete in Ontario, Canada treating water from the Holland Marsh for 3 consecutive months. Winners of this Stage will be invited to participate in Stage 4 testing their technologies to clean water from Lake Jesup for 14 months.

Stefan Jansen, Deltares:
Diffuse emission from agriculture is the main and most persistent source of phosphorus into surface water. Recently, several methods to trap phosphorus from this source have been tested in the field. For example, iron oxide coated sand, a side product from drinking water production from groundwater, proved to be an excellent filter material which removes phosphorus to very low levels. By integration with the drainage system, efficient removal of P can be combined with minimal disturbance of the agricultural practice of the farmer. Currently, systems to remove P from drainage water with iron oxide coated sand will be installed for field trials at several Dutch farms. This presentation will show the principle of the removal method, results from laboratory and field trials, and an outlook to further practical application.

Koos Baas, Green Water Solution:
Green Water Solution is a US start-up company that has embraced a ‘green’ technology for phosphorus removal and recovery. This Dutch developed method opens ways to prevent bio-growth in industrial – and Harmful Algae Blooms in surface waters and to create a valuable recyclable by-product at the same time, consequently diminishing pressure on depleting Phosphorous reserves. Being a Florida based company the George Barley Prize is at the top of their priorities. In this presentation Koos Baas will introducre their novel approach and discuss how the George Barley Prize has stimulated their innovation cycle and how to bring this technologu to the market. Surface water remediation in one potential business line, but there are also many other applications that can benefit from this technology. Koos Baas will show some of their current pilot projects and the main drivers for their clients to invest in phosphorus removal to ultra low concentrations.

Leon Korving, Wetsus:
Most sewage water treatment plants in Europe remove phosphorus down to 1-2 mg/l and 88% comply with the European Urban Waste Water Directive. Nevertheless only 47% of the EU surface waters had a good ecological status in 2015. Furthermore 15% of 1500 EU lakes have a high risk to not meet WHO risk thresholds for recreational use. Therefore there is significant need for advanced water treatment systems.
Phosphorus removal is effective to improve the quality of surface water to prevent eutrophication and algae blooms, but it requires a reduction of concentrations to 0,01-0,02 mg P/l and removal from diluted sources like sewage effluent and agricultural run-off. Phosphorus removal and recovery from diluted sources is however complicated and costly. This presentation will discuss technologies for phosphorus removal from dilute sources, their technological capabilities as well as their constraints. First experiences from the pilot stage in Canada will be discussed.

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