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Algae in Cape Coral canal during Tropical Storm Gordon. WINK News

Lee County looking for solution to algae problem through partnership with East Coast company

Lee County is looking at a partnership with a company on the east coast to clean up the algae plaguing Southwest Florida waterways.

“Clearly you don’t want to drive through it because you don’t know what’s stuck in it,” said Heather O’Brien, of Seatow. “You can’t see it. What’s under there? You can’t tell.”

The canal behind O’Brien’s boat towing business is covered with thick blue-green algae.

“I pull in here, as soon as you get out of the car, it’s like ‘Oh my gosh,'” O’Brien said.

She says the green gunk piled up over the past few weeks and she’s nervous.

“I’m worried about our employees,” O’Brien said. “They’re out there trying to help people and we have to go though this.”

Some of her workers are now wearing masks to avoid the toxins and the smell.

“We don’t know what the potential hazards are,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien’s canal is just one of many Lee County is working to clean up.

“This is the first time in Lee County’s history we’ve tried to clean up blue green algae,” said Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman.

WINK News showed you how one company worked to suck up the algae.

“We owed it to ourselves to do a full test, to try multiple technologies to see what is the best at actually cleaning up the algae,” Hamman said.

County commissioners are now looking to partner with Ecosphere Technologies.

Commissioner Hamman tells WINK News they like this method because it doesn’t include any trips to the wastewater treatment plant. It sucks up the algae water, cleans it without chemicals on site and puts it right back into the canal.

“All of it is in an effort to provide relief to the people who have to smell this and deal with this every day,” Hamman said.

O’Brien also expressed her concerns with the current state of the algae.

“It’s sad,” O’Brien said. “I mean it’s sad that this is, you know … I feel like our government is letting us down.”

It’s still up to the D.E.P. to give the green light for this new cleanup plan with Ecosphere.

They haven’t picked spots where they would use the machine yet.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
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