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Solar Bees to the rescue?

Water department finding solutions for West Lake water taste, odor issues

Contributed photo
Pictured is a Solar Bee.
Contributed photo Pictured is a Solar Bee.

The solution to the taste and odor issues with the drinking water from West Lake could be in the works.

West Lake currently has algae problems, and they start with the annual spring rains.

“Basically, all the runoff in the nutrients get in the lake because of the heavy rains, and then it turns really hot and dry,” said Osceola Water Superintendent Brandon Patterson. “So, the algae feed off of the all the nutrients that wash in.”

The months of drought from the past two years has intensified the algae situation.

Patterson said the problem is usually fixed with chemicals, however, it’s not working as effectively as it has in the past.

Long term?

The water department has looked at different types of treatments, but with Clarke County Reservoir Commission’s ongoing Squaw Creek Watershed lake project, Patterson said something long term and costly for West Lake might not be the best option.

The ongoing CCRC lake project could provide a water supply for Osceola and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) with an 816-acre lake, which could provide 2.2 million gallons of water per day.

West Lake, the current water source for Clarke County and SIRWA, isn’t meetings its needs.

Solar Bees

What’s the best solution for the algae problem at West Lake? The answer could be Solar Bees.

Solar Bees, which look like pumps or fountains that disperse water, are solar powered and placed in lakes to help provide long-distance circulation in order to control harmful blue-green algae blooms, reduce taste and odor issues, improve fish habitats and improve overall water quality.

Each Solar Bee unit costs approximately $54,000. Patterson said studies have shown West Lake needs two units. Solar Bees could also offset chemical costs in the water-treatment plant, Patterson said.

Osceola Water Department is currently in the process of applying for grant assistance to purchase Solar Bee equipment. Department officials are wanting to have the equipment installed and running by this spring.

In use

Patterson said Solar Bees have been used for five to 10 years in various lakes. He added, there’s approximately 350 lakes across the United States that have Solar Bees in them.

“Obviously, any time you cannot add more chemicals is going to be better,” Patterson said. “The reason for looking at this approach is it’s not only going to help the water quality, but the lake itself — the fishery side of it.”

Patterson said whenever there’s algae blooms and oxygen depletion, it affects the fishing and recreation.

“Virtually, in the future, when we get our new reservoir, these units will still be used and benefitted in the lake,” Patterson said.

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