Hope Floats – Man-made islands create ecosystems to heal polluted rivers

Here is a repost from our blog over at Patriot LWM:

A few years ago, Patriot Land and Wildlife was fortunate to be involved with an innovative water quailty improvement project in Washington, DC on the Anacostia River. Teamed with Bluewing Environmental Solutions and Technologies, Patriot LWM helped install several BioHaven Floating Treatment Wetlands at Diamond Teague Park in DC, with the intention of providing much-needed water quality improvement. These BioHaven islands are capable of removing as many nutrients from the waterbody as 6 acres of natural wetlands.

Diamond Teague is just across the street from the Washington Nationals baseball stadium and is a popular riverside destination for ballpark patrons, among others. The dual functionaility of water quality stewardship and ornamental landscaping allowed for a great project to occur, and lots of attention drawn to the problems suffered by our waterways.  Author Mike Cronin of “The Daily” spotlights the project.

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It turns out that recycled plastic may do more for the environment than just save it from unnecessary garbage. Man-made floating islands constructed from the stuff are helping to revive urban rivers devastated by centuries of industrial pollution.The Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., for example, has been slowly coming back to life, roughly two years after the Maryland-based company Blue Wing Environmental Solutions and Technology anchored seven man-made islands there in an area near Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals play. Those islands are the brainchild of Bruce and Anne Kania, the married couple who run Floating Islands International in Shepherd, Mont.“We are providing an affordable, doable, non-chemical solution, and people are going, ‘Aha!’ ” said Anne, Floating Islands’ CEO.Bruce realized years ago that wetlands work naturally to clean up pollutants, so the Kanias started mimicking floating ecosystems with recycled fiber from plastic bottles.
Just days after the floating islands are placed in the water, a film of bacteria and other microbes forms on the mesh filters and other plastic parts of the fake landmasses, said Bruce, adding that the microbes eat nutrients and form biofilm in the process. Biofilm is the base of periphyton, which is in turn the base of the freshwater food chain. Everything from zooplankton to nymphs and minnows thrive off it.“They clean up the water and take nutrients that otherwise would have turned into algae and turn them into fish food,” said Bruce, who got the idea for the floating islands after observing the natural, peat-based floating islands of northern Wisconsin.“Three years ago, we could see only 14 inches into our 6.5-acre research pond,” he said. “Now, we can see 11 feet into it.”

The Kanias founded their company in 2005. Today they have seven manufacturers worldwide and 4,000 islands in use around the globe. Customers pay roughly $27 per square foot and may order any shape or size of floating island, which can be used in rivers, ponds, lakes and even the ocean.
Kevin Hedge, a wetland scientist and partner at Blue Wing, sees the synthetic islands as more than just a savior to an ailing environment.

“The floating islands are an ecological-restoration tool that also can be an economic-recovery tool,” he said.

Lanshing Hwang, the Maryland landscape architect who designed the island park in Washington, called it “an innovative approach — particularly for places that don’t have wetlands.

By Mike Cronin Saturday – May 21, 2011
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Posted on May 27, 2011, in Land & Wildlife, News and Such, Professional Articles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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