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Jul 30th
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Home News Community letters Engle: Turn blue green algae into blue green energy

Engle: Turn blue green algae into blue green energy

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Many residents located around the south end of the lake, especially the city of Clearlake, are enduring unknown health and safety issues due to this year's early and massive bloom of algae. Commerce is also suffering greatly. Who wants to live, shop, dine or attend events in Clearlake when you gag due to the smell of the lake?

The smell is so foul this year that many rumors were "floating" around about a sewage leak. City and state officials have determined that in fact, the culprit is not sewage, but a form of blue-green algae that emits a sulfurous smelling gas as it dies off. Rumors continue regarding the sewage leak and there are also whispers about some nasty bacterial infections associated to this muck.

I have seen no reports in print as to the exact nature of what the long-term health issues might be. I have seen (in print) warnings for boaters and swimmers. Officials recommend wearing a gas mask to launch a boat in this area. How bizarre! I have also seen warnings not to swim in this primordial ooze as skin irritations are likely. Yuck! Fishing, Lake County's biggest tourist attraction, has also been effected. Algae robs the water of oxygen, hence, the die off rate will undoubtedly increase as the summer progresses. I am sure that human respiratory illness will also be a factor. Might as well be sewage as it all sounds toxic to me no matter what it is. Boy howdy!

To my knowledge, city and county officials have made few attempts to resolve this problem with the exception of bringing in an air boat to blow the floating algae away from the park. That was a smart tact on the part of the city (if in fact it was done by the city). Recently, the county recruited volunteer firemen in an attempt to suck up the muck with a pump truck and then transfer it to the dump. This was a good idea but the pump kept getting plugged. Thanks for trying guys!

The real dilemma is that, due to the prevailing westerly winds, all the algae that was "blown" out of the park area just moved on down the line to the hotels and other businesses along Lakeshore Boulevard, increasing the bulk of the problem and stench for those in it's path.

Old Highway 53 is particularly inundated too as the westerly winds make this area the primary catchall for the worst it. As soon as you turn on to Old 53 the smell smacks you in the face. In some places, the algae is almost a foot thick.

This area of Clearlake also has a few long-established businesses as well as a large population of some of the county's poorest and most disadvantaged residents. These people live in trailer parks along the water. Many of these humble folks already have health issues and should not have to endure this debacle. Something must be done by our local public officials for the sake of it's residents. You'd think the Chamber of Commerce and the EPA would at least be up in arms.

OK, so now that I've taken a few cheap shots at our local officials, what is the solution to this rancorous problem?

First off, as a stop-gap measure, the city should bring in an air boat again or jet boats to clear out ALL of the marina's and little jetties which harbor boats. Most of all, the areas where the trailer parks are located on Old 53 are in dire need of attention. The city will probably need to do this on a continual basis through out the summer. This would make a big difference for the residents and commercial enterprises as well. Get 'er done. Please help! Our health and financial success is at stake here.

I note that the city has recently hired a consultant to oversee applications for the Obama stimulus package opportunities and "green economy" incentives. Bravo!

I have been researching these opportunities and while doing so, stumbled upon a new technology that would most assuredly solve the algae problem that has plagued Clear Lake for so long. Some resourceful individual has come up with a way to turn algae into biodiesel!

This could be a win-win situation if this "green" diesel can be manufactured in a cost effective method. The city could rid itself of the smell stigma, heath issues and financial losses endured by local residents and businesses alike in one fell swoop.

Invest in this "green" technology, Clearlake. It is likely that the city could, in fact, produce enough fuel to run all city vehicles with this "green-blue" energy source and possibly even have a surplus of fuel that could be sold (is that legal)?

Hey! Maybe some road repair revenue might even be tied to the sale of any excess fuel from a venture like this.

If you look for the silver lining in every storm cloud, good things will happen.

Go for it, Clearlake! Get 'er done.

Kevin Engle lives in Lower Lake.

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