SANDUSKY — Can better technology solve the harmful algal bloom problem in Lake Erie and other lakes?
A $10 million competition hopes to provide an answer to that question.
The George Barley Water Prize, which is being administered by the Everglades Foundation in Florida, is an ongoing competition. It will award $10 million to the researcher or research team that can best demonstrate a cost-effective solution for removing phosphorus from natural bodies of water.
More than 100 teams from 13 countries entered the competition. Of that amount, 10 finalists were picked in October for the next round of tests, which are being conducted in cold water conditions at Lake Simcoe in Canada. Tests in warmer water will then be carried out in Florida. The goal is to announce a winner for the competition by 2020.
Excessive amounts of phosphorus are considered a key reason for the annual summer algal blooms in Lake Erie. Ohio has signed an agreement with Michigan and Ontario to reduce the amount of phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025.
The prize is being funded by the Scotts Miracle Gro Foundation. Other organizations are also providing help with technology, publicity and administration.
Scotts Miracle Gro wanted to do something that would have a real impact on the harmful algal bloom problem, without waiting for litigation or government funding, said Molly Jennings, director of public affairs at Scotts Miracle Gro.
Scotts Miracle Gro has already taken other actions to deal with the phosphorus problem. In 2011, it announced it was removing phosphorus from its fertilizer products.
The foundation, the company’s charitable arm, has tried to raise awareness for freshwater issues.
One such attempt is a series of short documentary videos made by a National Geographic photographer named Andy Mann, who was hired by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation.
To mark World Water Day, March 22, Mann has just released three of the videos, including one that’s about three and half minutes long, “The Race to Save Lake Erie In Ohio,” which he shot while visiting the Toledo area during the 2017 harmful algal bloom.
“When I visited these watersheds and started speaking with the people in the communities affected, I realized the severity of the algae bloom problem,” Mann said. “I met parents afraid to give their children water to drink, fishermen losing businesses because the fish have left and scientists working around the clock to get ahead of the next bloom. I also uncovered stories of innovation and progress that gave me great hope that a solution is within reach.”