Cleaning Of Lakes And Rivers

Many of the advantages of the treatment of wastewater with oxygen and ozone apply to the clean up of rivers and lakes. Oxygen bubbled into the water will increase the rate of aerobic purification by the normal natural process. 236 Placement of oxygen bubblers at appropriate locations will clean the water and provide oxygen for the natural population of fish. Long-term oxygenation of lakes and rivers will slowly oxidize materials deposited in the silt on the bottom. Ultimately, oxygenation can return the lake or river to a near pristine state.

In 1985, researchers discovered a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It is called Gulf Hypoxia and it is very detrimental to the fishing industry. It results from too little oxygen in the water near the bottom of the Gulf. 237 In 1999, the zone covered nearly 20,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of New Jersey. In 2000, it was only 4,400 Square kilometers. It is caused by the outflow from the Mississippi River. It waxes and wanes as conditions up stream in the Mississippi river change. The zone is caused by the nitrogen fertilizer run-off from farms up stream. The nitrogen fuels a huge growth of microscopic plants and animals near the surface. They die and fall the Gulf floor where the deep-water organisms have a feast and use up all the local oxygen. The lack of oxygen drives away all the fish, leaving a dead zone. The Mississippi river water is oxygenated. It is fresh water and floats on the surface of the salty Gulf water. The oxygen it contains does not reach the dead zone. While it has never been tried, bubbling a lot of oxygen up from the bottom might cure this problem. This would enhance the yields of the gulf fishing industry.

Ozone is toxic to all forms of life and can be used only very sparingly in the continuous treatment of rivers and lakes. Ozone is used to control the quality of water in aquaculture. In this application, it sterilizes the water before it is allowed into the tanks used to grow the fish. Ozone completely kills all bacteria, viruses, parasite eggs, and fungus spores. In aquaculture, it is far more effectively than chlorine. Unlike chlorine that makes the water salty ozone decomposes to useful oxygen. With properly control, it is a preferred method of protecting fish from waterborne disease. It has also been used to aid in controlling the spread of Zebra Mussels.238

One can speculate that ozone may be useful in the treatment of heavily contaminated bodies of water. In this use, pipes and ozone generators will be installed to provide a continuous supply of ozone to the water. At first, ozone will kill all current life. Next, it should oxidize the residual dissolved organic material remaining from past contamination. As ozone treatment continues, the sludge on the bottom will be oxidized killing and removing all bacteria and plant life. With sufficient ozone treatment, the water and bottom will become totally sterile and free from all organic contamination. While not demonstrated, this process has the potential to eliminate toxic materials such as herbicides, pesticides, DDT, DDE, dioxin and other POPs that would otherwise persist in the lake for decades.

When total purity is achieved, ozone treatment will be terminated. In just a few days, all the ozone will decompose to oxygen. The sterile lake can be restocked with the desired species of plants and animals and the pristine condition existing 500 years ago will be recreated. The oxygen remaining from the decomposition of the ozone will serve the animal life in the restored lake.


237 Simpson, Sarah, "Shrinking the Dead Zone", Scientific American, Vol. 285, No. 1, July 2001, Page 18


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