Environment
9:00 am
Thu June 5, 2014

'SolarBees' Poised To Hit Jordan Lake Next Month

A SolarBee
A SolarBee
Credit Medora Corporation

The Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up the environmental impact review of a $1.4 million plan to put solar powered water mixers (also known as SolarBees) on Jordan Lake to break up algae.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to delay implementation of rules that would restrict development around the lake to reduce contaminated runoff. Instead, they had the Department of Environment and Natural Resources spend $400,000 on 36 SolarBees to churn the water and prevent chlorophyll a, which is linked to algae blooms, from building up.

'It only addresses pollution that's already in the lake. We think the problem needs to be worked on, at least, if not stopped before it gets into the lake.' - Mary Maclean Asbill

Mary Maclean Asbill is a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. She said the mixer technology is questionable, and it isn't a complete solution.

“Because it only addresses pollution that's already in the lake. We think the problem needs to be worked on, at least, if not stopped before it gets into the lake.”

Tom Reeder directs DENR's Water Quality Division.

“In my opinion, it's just a philosophical difference,” Reeder said. “Do you rely solely on these watershed controls that can be very costly and very intrusive? Or do you try to offset some of that with, what I would call, in-lake treatment technology that still has the end result of mitigating or removing the formation of this chlorophyll a?”

The Army Corps is wrapping up its environmental impact review, but has already offered verbal approval of the Solar Bee experiment.

Maclean Asbill says if the Army Corps of Engineers does not approve the Solar Bee program, she hopes the General Assembly would reconsider reinstating the Jordan Lake rules quickly.

DENR is optimistic the SolarBee plan will be approved, and that the devices will be churning key areas of Jordan Lake in July.