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Posted 2/25/2016

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By Todd Hornback, public affairs

Coordination between the Louisville District water quality team and the Engineer Research and Development Center, known as ERDC, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, has led to a focus of sharing information and water samples across the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division river districts and ERDC. 

“We have a great relationship with the ERDC environmental analysis laboratory and we are sending the bulk of our water quality samples to them,” said Jade Young, Louisville District limnologist and water quality team leader. 
This relationship led to a December 2015 meeting in Louisville among Louisville, Nashville, Huntington, and Pittsburgh districts and ERDC to discuss capabilities and water quality issues.

A follow up meeting at ERDC in Vicksburg for a tour of the facilities catered to water quality issues, including fish barriers, environmental testing and harmful algal blooms, known as HABs. 

Specific to HABs, ERDC is investigating treatments and how they affect different species of algae. ERDC created a work unit to discuss early detection of HABs and possible causes including nutrients found in fertilizers. 

One treatment method is hydrodynamic cavitation where high levels of oxygen are forced into water to break up algae cells and destroy toxins. The Louisville District water quality team has volunteered to host an in situ test of this method in one of the district’s reservoirs. Although the technology is not expected to be feasible for large bodies of water such as district lakes, the process may be used in more confined lake and river areas such as areas immediately surrounding intakes for drinking water. 

The work group is focusing on comparing Louisville District’s Barren River Lake, known for HABs, and Nashville District’s Dale Hollow Lake, where HABs are not found. Although the lakes are in the same region of the country, the team is working to find variances to explain why Barren River Lake is more susceptible to HABs.

“We jokingly call them the HABs and the HAB nots,” Young said of the two lakes.

She added, “Although the responsibility to protect the public from HABs is on the state agencies, we have a responsibility to advance the understanding of HABs because of our congressionally authorized project purposes. We are all helping each other—the Corps and state agencies—to address this field as a whole.”