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O’Leary bracing for expensive lagoon fix

O’Leary Mayor Eric Gavin views the town’s wastewater treatment lagoon from outside the facility’s fence. The town is open to recommendations on how to fix corrosion problems believed to have been caused by a toxic algae bloom.
O’Leary Mayor Eric Gavin views the town’s wastewater treatment lagoon from outside the facility’s fence. The town is open to recommendations on how to fix corrosion problems believed to have been caused by a toxic algae bloom. - Eric McCarthy
O'LEARY, P.E.I. —

Elected officials here are hoping a meeting this week will provide answers on how to eradicate a toxic algae bloom in O’Leary’s lagoon.

The town already knows the fix will be costly as council has committed, $531,000 - most of its Gas Tax revenue for the next five years - towards lagoon upgrades, largely connected to the solution.

The town started a $1.4 million lagoon upgrade project in 2016, and most of the work was completed in 2017. Problems started multiplying last year.

Council became aware of a toxic blue-green algae bloom forming in the lagoon last August and has been looking into ways to eradicate that problem.

Around the same time, problems associated with a new ultraviolet light disinfection system, and computer equipment that helps control the system, were also occurring. The equipment was corroding.

Repairs were initially covered under warranty until it was determined hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gases, given off by the algae, were causing the corrosion.

“That’s why we’re all going to get together,” Mayor Gavin said in explaining the significance of a meeting being held Thursday. Town and provincial environment officials as well as the equipment manufacturer and consultants are expected to be in attendance.

“We pretty well know what the problem is. We’re going to have to try to do something to get it fixed.”

“Blue green algae seems to be causing problems with our computer and everything else. Now we have to go back and try to fix that plus we have to try to fix the problem with the blue-green algae.”

Sludge removal, he said, could be one of the recommendations.

Bev Shaw, chief administrative officer for the town, said how the problem developed in O’Leary’s lagoon has been described as “the perfect storm.”

“The body of water, an abundance of food for the algae to feed on, and warm temperatures and sunshine,” said Coun. Darrel Wood.

He stressed the problem is not unique to O’Leary.

“It’s naturally occurring in bodies of water like that. It’s an accumulation of bacteria and phosphorous. It’s stuff you put down the drain. We’re all guilty of it.”

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