Now you see it, now you don’t
Friday, 8th February, 2019
By Myles Burt
Businessman Peter Riddell says politicians have been ignoring solutions to the blue-green algae crisis killing fish across the state.
Peter Riddell from The Water Cleanser Company says he has reached out to politicians about a product that would eliminate blue-green algae from the Darling River.
But his pitch hasn’t received a response from politicians who believe there is no solution in sight.
“Basically we’ve got a technology that can clean up cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in three to six weeks,” Mr Riddell said.
“I was listening to the minister (Niall Blair) rattling on about how there’s no technology to deal with the problem, when in fact there is.
“We’ve emailed the Minister, we’ve rung his office and we’ve had no response to date.
“The Shadow Minister (Chris Minns) hasn’t responded either.
“If that was me and I had an election coming up in a month’s time I’d be all over this.
“But it looks to me like there’s no political will to fix the underlying problem, they’re just going to let it happen.”
Even Water NSW has showed interest, according to Mr Riddell, despite the lack of contact from politicians.
“Water NSW rang us when this first happened. We’ve been talking to them for the last four or five months,” Mr Riddell said.
“They rang us to say we need some help, they were then going to send us a proposal on what they wanted to look at remediating.”
However, he said Water NSW changed their tone quickly last week, dismissing their proposal.
“The details were meant to arrive but when we spoke to them the response that we got was that we’ve downgraded ourselves and we’re now playing second fiddle to DPI, to clear up the dead fish, and we’re not doing anything till May or June,” Mr Riddell said.
“It now reflects what the Minister is saying, there’s no way of treating this and it’s not our fault.
“So that changed the term completely; politically they’ve just made the decision to ride this out, get rid of the dead fish and hope everyone forgets before the election.
“I could be completely wrong but that’s been my experience because I’ve had nothing back from any of the politicians.
“One of my guys has spoken to the Deputy Premier and he’s said he’s interested, but the proof will be in the pudding, I guess.”
The Water Cleanser is a wax block seeded with over a hundred carbon elements that triggers the growth of bacillus bacteria, a bacteria that helps break down overloads of nutrients in water causing cyanobacteria to flourish and create algal blooms.
Blue-green algae is created due to an overload of nutrients in waterways, where there’s not enough bacillus bacteria to break nutrients down to a size that nitrogen bacteria can consume.
“The issue is that cyanobacteria can consume those larger molecules so they step in and start consuming the nutrients, and by doing that of course the nitrogen bacteria diminish in numbers, therefore your food cycle is broken,” Mr Riddell said.
“That’s why there’s dead fish.
“So increasing the number of bacillus enzymes in the water will break down those nutrient molecules.
“They (nitrogen bacteria) can consume nutrients 24/7, cyanobacteria can only do it during the daytime.
“If you’ve got one bacteria working 24/7 and one bacteria working every 12 hours, eventually the water gets back into balance again and your cyanobacteria dies off because it can’t compete.
“When water’s got cyanobacteria you can’t get rid of it, it will always come back because it’s in the water naturally anyway.
“But as soon as you get a nutrient overload and you’ve got not enough nitrogen bacteria consuming those nutrients, then cyanobacteria extending to e coli and botulism will step in to consume those molecules.
“So it’s just a matter of keeping the water in balance and all this block does is speed up the process of water basically biologically cleaning itself which is what it will do.”
Mr Riddell said flows had very little to do with fixing the blue-green algae issue, having worked with flowing rivers in China that suffered from blue-green algal blooms due to nutrient overloads.
“It’s not just the fact that the water’s not moving, that doesn’t help,” Mr Riddell said.
“If the water’s moving you’ve got more chance of it remaining healthy as long as it’s a reasonable flow.
“All those bacteria are meant to be there, just in the right numbers.
“Any bacterial group which reaches a dominant position than what’s naturally in balance, you’ve got a problem.”
He says he has used his Water Cleanser across Western Australia and countries such as China, USA, Philippines and Brazil.
Mr Riddell said he still found that the product has been more accepted overseas than in Australia.
“Hence the frustration why I’ve gone off to all the politicians saying we do have a solution,” Mr Riddell said.
“What the minister is saying is nonsense.
“We’ve got lakes we’ve dealt with in Western Australia that were treated in 2015 and have had an algal bloom every year.
“Up until we’ve treated it we haven’t been back, it’s broken the cycle.
“Those lakes are in balance, they’re healthy again and there’s no need to treat them again.
“The thing is, within three to six weeks we could get rid of the blue-green algae.”