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Two Solar Bee units installed at West Lake

Workers with Solar Bees work on the installation of the two Solar Bee units at West Lake April 9.
OST photo by AMY HANSEN Workers with Solar Bees work on the installation of the two Solar Bee units at West Lake April 9.

Solar Bees are buzzing at West Lake.

On April 9 and 10, two Solar Bee units were installed into the lake.

“They’re trying to concentrate up around the intake (areas) going into the plant,” said Osceola Water Superintendent Brandon Patterson.

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

Algae problem

West Lake, the drinking water source for Clarke County and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) currently has algae problems, and they start with the annual spring rains.

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

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.

Cost effective

“Anytime we can attack water quality issues without the addition of more chemicals, it’s more cost effective for the water works and better for the environment,” Patterson said.

The total cost of the Solar Bees project is $108,973.

A Clarke Community Development Pillars Grant/Lakesido Casino and Resort funding will contribute $35,000. SIRWA will also cover 15.7 percent of the project’s cost.

“Obviously, we’re covering the balance of it,” Patterson said.

Up next?

Now that the Solar Bees are in West Lake, what’s going to happen next?

Last week, Patterson said the water plant was changing the carbon in its filters.

With the installation of the two units of Solar Bees and the carbon changeout in the plant’s eight filters, Patterson said Osceola Water Works hopes to avoid any taste and odor issues in the drinking water this year.

If the public notices any unusual activity in or around the lake because of the Solar Bees, they should call Osceola Water Works or Osceola Police Department.

It will most likely be during the fall months when the impact of the Solar Bees becomes noticeable or apparent in Clarke County. Patterson said the reason for this is the impact of algae blooms if there’s a hot and dry summer.

“If we see the anticipated results in the watershed because of the Solar Bee installation, we could see a significant reduction in the overall chemical usage, which will help us continue to keep water rates low,” Patterson said. “We would like to remind the community that the Solar Bees are here to help us.”

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