Ship tests new ballast water treatment system over Lake SuperiorCrews pumped a biocide into two of 10 ballast tanks in the Indiana Harbor as it left Gary, Ind., treating 1.8 million gallons of ballast water. The chemical then was neutralized with a second chemical as the boat moved across Lake Superior before releasing ballast in the Duluth-Superior harbor.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Researchers working with the American Steamship Co. tested a new system late last month to kill invasive species in the ballast water of a 1,000-foot Great Lakes freighter.
Crews pumped a biocide into two of 10 ballast tanks in the Indiana Harbor as it left Gary, Ind., treating 1.8 million gallons of ballast water. The chemical then was neutralized with a second chemical as the boat moved across Lake Superior before releasing ballast in the Duluth-Superior harbor.
It’s believed to be the first such major-scale test on the Great Lakes, with research-ers from multiple universities and federal agencies involved along with funding from multiple state and federal grants. The issue is important because state and federal governments are moving to require ballast treatment to help stop invasive species that cause an estimated $5.9 billion damage annually in the region.
“The good news is that we were successful in delivering the biocide at this huge level for a 1,000-foot laker, then successfully delivered the neutralizer, all while the Indiana Harbor was on the job,” said Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale National Park. The National Park Service was the lead agency on the effort.
The tests used sodium hydroxide, which is commonly used in wastewater treatment plants but had never been used in major ballast water applications before. Crews then used carbon dioxide to neutralize the chemical so it wouldn’t keep killing when the ballast water was released.
“We hope to prototype it all the way to full size, all 10 tanks, very quickly,” Green said.
She praised American Steamship Co. for participating in the tests, calling the company a leader in the effort to curb invasives by offering the Indiana Harbor for the tests. The effort required more than a half-mile of tubes to be installed on the boat and researchers welded treatment equipment to the boat for the tests.
“As stakeholders in both the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes region, we feel an obligation to support efforts to combat the detrimental effect of invasive species brought in by oceangoing ships,” said Noel Bassett, vice president of American Steamship Co., in a statement.
The Superior-based Great Ships Initiative now is testing water samples drawn from the ballast tanks to see if the biocide indeed killed organisms and whether the treated water was then successfully neutralized to prevent environmental harm. Results should be available next month.
Barnaby Watten, senior scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Leetown Science Center in West Virginia, said earlier shore-station testing at the Great Ships Initiative facility in Superior reached a 98 percent kill rate for living organisms in the water, with most perishing within 2 hours of exposure to sodium hydroxide.
“We’re hoping to get similar results in real world conditions,” Watten said in a statement. “But this trial demonstrated the feasibility of our process, and we are on target with equipment development to deliver and mix these biocides and neutralizers.”
Green became a leader in the ballast water treatment effort after moving to ban ballast water discharges in Isle Royale National Park waters and then installing a ballast treatment system onto the park’s own passenger boat to avoid moving a fish-killing disease to the park’s waters. She has worked over the past three years to bring academic researchers, industry leaders and federal regulators together to develop a system for Great Lakes freighters.
“I can’t protect the park unless we have a safety net for all of Lake Superior,” she said.