Processing Magazine

Scientist calls for water management regulation review

March 8, 2013

Federal regulations on water management and water treatment should be reviewed and new policies implemented to provide full protection from pollutants and higher quality of water, according to one of the leading U.S. specialists in the area of algal blooms and cyanobacteria, Dr. Kenneth Hudnell.

Hudnell examines the toxins in algal blooms and cyanobacteria and their effect on human health and the environment, including aquatic ecosystems. He believes that the government should change its focus in regulatory policy and remediation strategies regarding impaired freshwater bodies. At present, control is focused on the watershed and efforts are concentrated on preventing various pollutants from entering the bodies of water. However, no real efforts are being made to treat the impaired water bodies themselves, he claimed. This approach can take at least two or three decades to restore a water body's designated uses and is too expensive, Hudnell explained.

Instead, the adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina, who is also vice president and director of science at Medora Corp., proposed a new approach that makes use of a combination of the best practices in watershed management and appropriate waterbody management technologies to help restore designated uses faster and at a lower cost.

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In a recent article published in the Florida Water Resources Journal, titled "An Alternative Approach to Regaining Designated Uses of Clean Water Act Section 303 (D) Impaired Waters," he outlines his view on government policy and the use of technologies for improving water body conditions through a new balanced approach to freshwater management.

Hudnell writes that waterbody management should use technology within impaired waters to reduce the stress on impaired biochemical processes and to enable recovery. There are various technologies available that can circulate water to suppress cyanobacteria and enable nutrients to ascend the food web, resulting in the creation of outstanding fisheries. They can also deactivate pathogens through exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. Other technologies can capture excessive nutrients for reuse and degrade toxic substances through bacterial digestion, he explains.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eutrophic water bodies have grown from between 10 and 20 percent of U.S. fresh water bodies in the 1970s to about 50 percent today. Hudnell points out that this was proof that a new policy requiring the treatment of the impaired water body itself, rather than just trying to prevent pollutants from entering water, should be put in place. He compares the current policy to telling an ill person how to live a healthy life without treating their condition and the symptoms of the disease.

Hudnell recommends that satellite imagery from Blue Water Satellite should be used for monitoring conditions, detecting problems and managing progress, while long-distance, solar-powered circulation systems should be installed to continually circulate the waters. Moreover, he advised that the use of floating mats that remove nitrogen and phosphorus from the water body should be adopted, as well as the use of algae wheels to remove nutrients by growing non-toxic algae to be processed into biofuel, animal feedstock and fertilizer.