OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A plan to stop toxic algae from popping up on South Lake in Overland Park, Kansas, has shown signs of promise.
The city launched a pilot program in October to keep harmful algae from taking over the lake. It involved a floating wetland, where plants grow on a floating pad with roots stretching underwater to filter out the nutrients algae need to survive.
Even though the Kansas Department of Health and Environment found algae in the lake last week, Overland Park’s water quality specialist said there is a lot to be proud of with the new program.
For one, the algae bloom came later this summer than previous years.
“It means we spend more of the peak season of recreation out here without having these warning signs up, without potential risk to our residents. It's really good," said Ian Fannin-Hughes, the water quality specialist. "It's been pushed back, and we're hoping the duration of this algal bloom will be limited because of the floating wetland."
Fannin-Hughes is currently having conversations with Overland Park city leaders to expand the floating wetland. He’d like to install one 20 times the size of what’s currently on South Lake. He said that 1,500-square-foot wetland would take up less than 1 percent of the lake’s surface and could eliminate algae blooms.
“Our eventual goal is, if this project works and we can figure out that it can work on this lake, maybe we can continue to use it on our other lakes,” Fannin-Hughes said. “So when we compound all the nutrient reduction that is available here, that's a big plus for our creeks, streams and rivers.”
Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, storm runoff and pet waste collect in the lake, feeding algae. Those nutrients flow from South Lake into the Blue River, which connects to the Missouri River, which connects to the Mississippi River, which can carry all those nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico — impacting a huge ecosystem.