Floating Wetlands Launched at McConnell Springs

Jun 25, 2013

LEXINGTON,Ky-- Environmental group Friends of Wolf Run officially began a project Monday to control algae in McConnell Springs. 

Funded by a $3500 grant from Kentucky-American Water,  teams of volunteers constructed and launched three different designs of "floating wetlands" into the park's storm water pond.  The "wetlands" consist of floating platforms made of materials such as cork, wood, or plastic.  On top are a variety of plants, ranging from native pond species to vegetable crops.  Their roots descend through holes in the platforms and feed off nutrients in the water (such as nitrogen and phosphorus).  According to Lexington Water Quality Consultant Susan Plueger, these nutrients can cause explosive algae growth.

"It grows, then it’ll die, and then that depletes the oxygen in the water. It can kill off fish and other organisms," Plueger said.   

By periodically  harvesting the contents of these floating wetlands, it is possible to control nutrient levels in the water without causing explosive plant growth.  Project Administrator Ken Cooke says they are more environmentally friendly than synthetic solutions.

"If our ponds grow a lot of algae, people want to put chemicals in to try and control that.  That is not the best thing to do for the fish, the aesthetics, and for heavy metal contamination.  So by using natural systems, we can control the nutrients and return these ponds to some balance," said Cooke.

Each wetland design will be monitored and judged on criteria such as performance, aesthetics, and cost.  If successful, it's possible they'll be deployed to other areas around Lexington.