Custom Nonwoven Geotextiles Fight Lake Eutrophication

Can nonwoven geotextiles prevent the suffocating damage of eutrophication in waterways? That is a question Titan Environmental Containment is helping answer in a collaborative project with environmental engineering professor Catherine Milligan and Concordia University (Canada).

The NSERC Collaborative Research and Development Grant has been awarded for 2017-19 for the research project titled “Improvement in Surface Water Quality Using Geotextiles.”

Photo: Eutrophication in Lake Water. Photo from Shutterstock, license *7451

Algae blooms, whether caused by excessive nutrient build up, bacteria, or other sources, can make waters incapable of sustaining healthy aquatic life or supporting area wildlife. Blooms may also make waters unsafe for human activities (e.g., swimming).

The results of the previous NSERC engagement plus investigations will be presented during the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering conference 31 May – 3 June 2017 in Vancouver. This paper is co-authored by the Concordia research team and Sam Bhat of Titan Environmental Containment.

“Very limited work has been done to remediate surface water by using geotextiles as filter media,” Milligan wrote in a 2016 paper co-authored with Titan’s Sam Bhat and Concordia University colleagues Shrabani Sarma, Keoponnreay Kim, and Dileep Palakkeel Veetil and Prof Catherine Mulligan.

During the 2017 conference, the team will present an update on the research, which has involved three different custom geotextiles on a eutrophic lake 75 km north of Montreal in the town of Saint-Anne Des Lacs, Quebec.

Photo: Eutrophication in Lac Caron, Quebec

The eutrophication occurring in Lake Caron (Quebec).

COMBATTING EUTROPHICATION WITH GEOTEXTILES

Lake Caron, the site of the geotextiles and eutrophication research, is an artificial lake with a surface area of 35,300 m2. No waterways feed into it, making its only sources of water immediate area runoff, precipitation, and snow melt. Though much of the lake is surrounded by trees, private land application of fertilizer, use of phosphate detergents, septic tank discharges, and shoreline erosion have caused phosphorous loading in the water. Runoff from the forest lands has also contributed to elevated phosphorus concentration, which in some areas varies from 908 – 1310 mg/kg. Excessive plant growth and algal blooms have occurred in the shallow water. The depth is only 2.6m. The result—eutrophication—has led to decomposition and death in the water as oxygen levels have been depleted.

In setting up the shoreline experiment, which was cited in an area more prone to algal bloom, the research team set up plastic tanks (35.6 cm height and 543 L volume) and placed them on ground levelled with gravels near the shore. The filtration units consisted cylindrical filtration columns, made of plexiglass, with a 20 cm internal diameter and a height of 25 cm. The square-shaped base, as a filter holder, had a circular hole at the centre with the exact diameter of the filtration column (20 cm).

Photo: Studying eutrophication in nonwoven geotextiles

Filtration set up on the shore

Over a three-month period, a wide-range of turbidity levels were tested 10.4 – 32.4 NTU and different arrangements of custom nonwoven geotextiles pore size filter characteristics (75 – 110 μm). The geotextiles were custom-made for the study’s evaluation of nutrient and suspended solids removal efficiency.

The results have been intriguing. As the team describes it in its research:

A significant reduction in turbidity was observed when the number of filters with small opening sizes (75 and 90 µm) was increased. Using more filters with a smaller pore size could capture more solids and minimize carryover of undersized particles through the filters. However, these kinds of filter combinations are susceptible to fast clogging. Filters with a large opening size (110 µm) were less liable to clogging. However they were not very effective towards fine particle capture.

“The test results from this study have shown that non-woven geotextile filters can be used for improving surface water quality,” the team concluded. “The geotextile filters resulted in the removal of 85 – 98% turbidity, 59 – 82% TP, 67 – 89% chlorophyll a, 78 – 93% BGA-PC and 33 – 66% COD depending on the initial water quality.”

A FUTURE OF BETTER WATER QUALITY

While nonwoven geotextiles are widely used for environmental and civil engineering applications, Titan Environmental developed custom geotextiles for the Lake Caron investigation due to the uniqueness of the study. The proximity of Titan’s manufacturing site to the project also helped the decision to customize in the search for geotextiles that could combat eutrophication. Titan could respond readily to the project needs and supply the appropriate geotextile characteristics.

Customization also helped address some of the great challenges of this type of research, such as:

  • Designing filters with correct pore sizes and other mechanical and hydraulic properties  to cope with the actual site conditions
  • Designing and fabricating filtration systems that can be effective in the actual lake conditions
  • Formulating the filter’s mechanical and hydraulic properties with the ability to accommodate the variations between lab and field-scale filter outputs
  • Increasing flow rate with an increase in the number of geotextile layers and reducing clogging

There exist few technologies worldwide for the treatment of large areas of polluted salt and fresh water. The approach under development is for the treatment of surface water for the removal of nutrients such as phosphorus, cyanobacteria, algae and other components that cause undesirable characteristics such as colour or odor. The long-term objective is thus to develop as system for the restoration, management and control of water quality in situ. The short-term objectives are:

  • To determine the parameters that influence the nutrient removal efficiency
  • To determine the mechanisms of treatment
  • To determine the factor for scale-up
  • To investigate the relationship between sediment and water quality.

And while the investigation is using custom geosynthetics, the manufacturing knowledge can be readily applied to larger production. Lac Caron provides an excellent source to get detailed information for future application, because the lake’s water quality presents the region’s lowest quality, most-challenging eutrophication. (Swimming is in fact banned in the lake.)

NOAA Image credit: By Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon - NASA Earth Observatory, Public Domain

While the lake being studied is small, the problem of eutrophication is large. Successful results in Quebec can be scaled up to more commercial solutions. Seen here: Algae bloom in one of the Great Lakes. Photo by NOAA and Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon – NASA Earth Observatory.

The two-year project will include additional testing at Lac Johanne, where the removal of organic matter will be examined. As the project gets further along, more in situ testing will be conduct. The sediment quality will also be monitored during the in situ tests as it will have an influence on the water quality. The research team seeks to reduce eutrophication, improve water quality and aesthetics, and enable these waters to be beneficially reused.

Titan Environmental will continue to serve as an industry partner to Concordia University in this collaborative research program, contributing technical support and donating custom-developed geotextiles.

VISIT THE CSCE CONFERENCE WEBSITE

VISIT TITAN ENVIRONMENTAL’S WEBSITE

For technical queries, contact Sam Bhat at sam@titanenviro.ca

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