Bioreactor helps with water quality in Bonita Springs

It’s not often you’d want to take a second look at a parking lot, but there’s one in Bonita Springs worth a doubletake.

Trouble is, without X-ray vision, you won’t notice what makes it unique.

Off Felts Avenue in Bonita Springs is what, at a glance, looks like a plain old parking lot. It’s the ingenuity below its surface that’s catching attention.

“Kind of think of a radiator with coils that go up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down, back and forth,” said Mayor Peter Simmons.

A bioreactor filled with ground-up trees, or woodchips, helps clean up stormwater runoff.

“Within the bioreactor, you’re getting rid of an invasive with the Melaleuca trees and removing nitrogen and nitrate from the water,” Simmons explained.

In turn, it expels cleaner water back into the environment, which is welcome news for people like John Paeno, CEO of CGT Kayaks, which relies on clean waterways to get customers on board.

“I’m totally excited. It’s awesome,” he said.

“We need other communities to start coming down. Check out our bioreactor. See how you can incorporate it in your community.”

Simmons will tell you it’s working.

“We had results approaching 90% nitrate removal, which is in the nitrogen family in water, and the results were simply off the chart in effectiveness, so cost-effective and highly, highly effective.”

The Florida League of Cities recently named the City of Bonita Springs as the 2020 Environmental Stewardship Award winner for its underground bioreactor.

Phase Two of the project is about to get underway. It will allow water from the Imperial River to enter the system for continual treatment.

The cost of Phase Two is expected to be around $800,000. The city received a grant for half of that.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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