Clams and prawns have found new homes at Mote Marine Aquaculture Research Park. In large reservoirs, they are the test subjects for the lab’s latest red tide research.
The experiment aims to use technology to remove excess nutrients while preserving the environment. The water runs through the entire system, located on a large trailer, and is virtually cleaned of excess nutrients within minutes.
Initiative researchers are now testing a patented Prescott Clean Water technology called Ozonix, first used in oil and gas fields to treat contaminated frack water.
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Ozonix works by saturating contaminated water with ozone, a natural and man-made product that is found in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Then converts ozone into a component with oxidative potential, which has the ability to oxidize a wide range of pollutants, including the algae that produce the red tide.
“You can selectively reduce individual nutrients, phosphates and nitrogen, all in real time,” said Steve McKenzie, senior technician at Prescott Clean Water. “It’s similar to the chlorinator, but we don’t have chlorine. We have no chemicals other than oxygen in the air and electricity. That’s it.”
Mote tested the effectiveness of ozone technology in destroying red blood cells as well as the potential side impacts on animals.
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At the Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Facility, Mote has at least a dozen control tanks, some filled with red tide, others with shrimp and shellfish. Researchers are monitoring the impact of ozone on creatures.
“We want to make sure we don’t do more harm,” said Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote. “When you see the live shrimp that are left in the bins, the live clams that are left in the bins that have been exposed to this technology… The toxin, that killed the red tide. These organisms are still alive, and that’s what we want to see.
The next step in the research requires permits from the Florida Department of Environment Protection to test the technology in open water about 20 miles offshore.
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According to McKenzie, the system is more of a nutrient attenuator than a specific red tide technology. In theory, he said the system could even treat contaminated water at Piney Point.
Mote researchers believe the technology “looks very promising” and are eager to do field tests.
“You want to decrease the impacts of excess nutrients, excess algae that contains toxins and bring them back to a balanced harmony,” Crosby said. “And that is really the goal of this initiative, to try to rebalance the harmony between human society and the environment, and I am convinced that this initiative will do that.”