Add ponds, lakes and reservoirs to the list of “things” on the internet of things—or at least that’s what one Dutch company is starting to do to help keep waters clean.
After several years of testing, trials and a few installations in the U.S., LG Sonic, Zoetermeers, The Netherlands, has opened an office in Scranton, Pa., and is developing its business selling an algae control system that relies on ultrasound-emitting buoys linked by mobile broadband connection to the internet and a monitoring and management system in Holland. The service uses data from the buoys to monitor water quality every 10 minutes and identify the algae organisms present so the sound waves emitted can be tuned to attack the specific types of algae that needs to be controlled.
“This is one of the things we really like,” says Bob Goeltz, a senior process engineer with Missouri Water, which is part of the national American Water Works Co. chain. “The online analysis identifies the type of algae present, and they change the frequency of the ultrasonic waves to be more effective to what’s in the lagoon.”
Goeltz says the company started experimenting with ultrasound for algae control about 10 years ago. The first system that was tried worked initially, he says, until the organisms changed and technicians had to be called back to retest the water and adjust the system.
“That’s [when] we found LG Sonic and got them going,” Goeltz says. An initial trial was judged successful enough at the Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant in Short Hills, N.J., that the company has purchased and installed several other systems around the country. Goeltz says it works best in enclosed bodies of relatively deep water without too many shoreline irregularities.
Greg Eiffert, the director of LG Sonic U.S., says “ultrasound is how we control algae, but the most important aspect of our system is monitoring. All this information is available to customers in real-time, so not only can they track the system results, but this can also supplement the data needs for discharge compliance.”
The ultrasonic signals work in the case of the bluegreen algae responsible for many harmful freshwater algae blooms by destroying gas vesicles inside the cells that the algae use to ascend and descend in the water during the feeding cycle. Preventing vertical movement starves the cells. Research has demonstrated that other flora and fauna are not harmed.
The company says analytics estimates when conditions are at actionable levels. Treatment can begin before a bloom is obvious for preventive maintenance. The system programs each treatment to the operator’s targeted algae taxa, based on profiles in the company’s research library. Each buoy has an onboard solar energy plant with battery storage for communications.
A Ft. Meyers, Fla.-based distributor of the system, AXI International, has proposed a demonstration in Lake Okeechobee later this year. The first phase would deploy a network of buoys on the southwest part of the lake near a discharge into the Caloosahatchee River estuary at Moore Haven. A later phase would deploy a similar array at Port Mayaca to reduce algae discharged into the St. Lucie River on the lake’s eastern shore. Both downstream areas have suffered from algae and red tide blooms exacerbated by algae-laden discharges from the lake during rainy seasons.
E. J. Neafsey, a data scientist and project lead on the proposal at AXI International, says the cost of the arrays will vary with the installations, but the data management works out to about 25¢ per sample. “It’s part of a bigger strategy of making our critical natural capital—water—IoT ready,” says Neafsey. “We will be able to not only monitor and identify what the hazards are to the system, we can eliminate them. Once we have 10-minute resolution water quality data, we will be able to do what we have been doing in a really precise manner.”