From China to Israel, the US to South Africa, the world’s freshwater lakes and seas are witnessing a surge in harmful algal blooms (HABs) that are endangering the health and economy of nearby communities. These cyanobacterial blooms, algae that grow out of control, are also producing toxic effects and causing harm to animals, birds, marine life, people, and local ecology.
Market-approved algaecides have long tried to keep these toxic plant-like bacteria at bay but many of these treatments cause the release of even more toxins into the water thus creating more problems than they solve.
That’s where the Israeli company BlueGreen Water Technologies say they differ. The blue-and-white solution begins out of the water – in outer space, actually – and uses its proprietary blend of algaecides to kill the algae, and prevent it from coming back, in an eco-friendly way.
“Cyanobacterial blooms continue to increase in frequency and in severity from season to season in the US and around the world, endangering both humans and animals, while destroying the aquatic environment,” says Eyal Harel, BlueGreen’s CEO.
The company’s products are based on copper sulfate and sodium carbonate, chemicals that have been used as algaecides for years. They are efficient in very small water bodies but have difficulty in actual lakes.
“We use these compounds, upgrade them and nano coat them with an inert biodegradable polymer that changes only their physical properties. So, the chemical remains the same. But now instead of sinking to the bottom, and interacting with the sediment when introduced into the water, the same chemical now floats and time releases,” Harel tells NoCamels.
BlueGreen’s Lake Guard solutions are in pellet form. Instead of dumping huge amounts of chemicals into the water source, Harel explains that users can throw a small amount of the pellets into the lake or sea and the active ingredients will be released from their nano-coating within four to six hours.
“We’ve essentially created a silver bullet,” he says. “We’re able to use very, very small doses of chemicals in the water. To make a very long story short, [the bacteria] undergo a collective suicide and we’re able to see amazing results within 24 to 48 hours.”
In October, Florida’s Lake Okeechobee became the latest water source to be treated by BlueGreen. Governor Ron DeSantis reached out to the Israeli water-tech experts to remediate toxic algae originating from the largest freshwater lake in the state from reaching the rest of Florida’s waterways.
“Harmful algal blooms have a debilitating effect on our ecosystems and our communities,” DeSantis said in a press statement. “That is why, for the first time, I made it a priority to secure dedicated funding to deploy innovative technology to mitigate blue-green algae blooms. I will continue to advocate for better management of Lake Okeechobee and the resources needed to bolster our natural resource protection efforts. Our economy and way of life depend on it.”
“We are proud to have answered Florida DEP call to prevent algalblooms and protect Floridians,” Dr. Waleed Nasser, BlueGreen’s Head of US Operations, said in a statement. “The modular nature of our technologies allows us to be able to respond to any emergency within hours from call.”
The Lake Okeechobee treatment comes on the heels of BlueGreen’s treatment of Roodeplaat Dam in South Africa (4.4 km2, ~1,100 acres) in February 2020 and the company’s two-day June treatment of Nanhu Lake, a recreational lake situated at the heart of Yueyang City in Hunan Province, China.
Harel relates that Nanhu Lake has been subject to toxic algal blooms for decades, reducing the water quality to ‘inferior Level V’ in some part of the lake, the lowest possible grade. In the past 12 years, the Yueyang municipality had tried to remediate the lake from the recurring algal blooms but was unsuccessful at each attempt.
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“We pride ourselves in protecting the world’s scarcest, most essential element: water,” says Harel.
BlueGreen was founded in Israel in 2014. Today, it has subsidiaries in the US and China.
And it was in Israel – a country known for its freshwater scarcity – that BlueGreen perfected its “silver bullet” treatment for the world’s waterways.
“Inadvertently, the water in Israel that requires treatment is heavily contaminated with blue green algae cyanobacteria. And so luckily, we are handling in Israel, water that is worse than anything that we see anywhere else in the world,” Harel tells NoCamels, noting that most of the local water sources they treat are irrigation ponds. “So, it gave us a lot of hands-on experience in a field that has no experience.”
But it’s not just the chemical solution that enables BlueGreen to combat the cyanobacteria problem. The company uses a near real-time monitoring system based on satellite imagery and AI analysis that allows it to monitor big waterbodies all over the world, detect algal blooms at their earliest stages of development and prevent them from becoming a problem altogether.
“Every lake, every body of water, every puddle is a biological jungle that is different from the next one. So, really understanding them, really knowing how to treat them and when to treat them is very different. There’s no one size fits all solution,” Harel tells NoCamels.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not have any direct effect on the harmful algal blooms, says Harel. “With or without COVID-19, water is still an essential component in our everyday lives,” he says.
Indirectly, the algae-laden water can make it toxic for drinking purposes. While in “first world countries it’s less of a problem because there is enough money to invest into the chlorination and filtration… unfortunately for the rest of the world, some three billion people, this is not an option.”
Harel says COVID-19 has slashed budgets for water quality in places like Africa.
“People are just drinking poisonous water. And that’s unacceptable. So we’re happy to be in the United States and help get rid of algal blooms, and the same goes for China. But Africa is a place where we’re very proud to be,” he tells NoCamels.
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com