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Dane County's new technology vacuums hazardous algae blooms near beaches
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Dane County's new technology vacuums hazardous algae blooms near beaches

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Algae Aerials

Algae blooms along the southern shore of Lake Mendota near Spring Harbor in 2018. 

Dane County is testing new technology that will clean out hazardous blue-green algae blooms near local beaches to keep them safe.

Algal blooms, which can cause health concerns for humans and pets, flourish in warm weather. With recent hot temperatures the region has been experiencing expected to continue for weeks, County Executive Joe Parisi said he hopes to ensure families can enjoy area beaches this summer and beyond.

“As the summer heats up and the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Dane County residents are turning to our lakes to cool down and reconnect with the outdoors,” said Paris in a statement. “This new technology will allow families to have a safe and fun time at the beach, without having to worry about water quality. Projects like this are an extension of our equity work — providing safe, free fun across our community and encouraging kids to get outside.”

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Mounds on Edgewood Dr.
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Steamboat "Scutanawbequon"
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Lake Monona
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Yahara River from Williamson St.
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Madison bird's-eye view

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Parisi devoted $20,000 for an algae vacuum initiative in his 2018 budget.

The system uses a pipe attached to a vacuum intake nozzle that pulls water and algae scum at the surface into filter bags. Once in the bag, clean water flows back into the lake and the algae and debris remain trapped inside.

Beaches on the Yahara chain of lakes are particularly susceptible to trapping material because of the shape of the shoreline. Unless floating algae are blown away by wind, the debris remains until it decomposes.

The model cleaning system is currently being used on the shoreline at Mendota County Park, but soon the technology will remove algal scum, filamentous algae, floating aquatic plants and trash from beaches across the county.

As part of the effort to keep area lakes clean, the county also has expanded its “blue waters barge” program that picks up trash and debris from piers, stormwater outlets and public beaches. The initiative now includes Lake Waubesa in addition to its original focus of lakes Mendota, Monona and Kegonsa.

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