On February 21 at the Art Janse Pumping Station, Ontario’s Lake Simcoe Watershed launched the final, three-month pilot phase for the George Barley Water Prize. With the active support of the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), the competition’s primary aim is to find a viable solution to the world’s algae problem.
In the past two years, 104 teams of scientists from 13 different countries have been competing to find a safe, cost-effective way to remove excess phosphorus from freshwater supplies. Phosphorus, an essential nutrient, can build up in water supplies and is a principal cause of the bluegreen algae that is devastating drinking water supplies across the globe.
At stake is the $10 million USD grand prize named for the late conservation advocate and Everglades Foundation co-founder. Designed to encourage scientific discoveries that lead to a solution, the George Barley Prize is modeled after the innovation and entrepreneurship awards such as those that motivated Charles Lindberg’s nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris. The grand prize finalists will be announced in August, and the awards and pitch event is slated for September.
During the three-month pilot at Ontario’s Holland Marsh, the 10 teams will attempt to prove their ability to extract phosphorus safely and affordably, even in temperate climates. Two of the teams, Econse Water Purification Systems Inc. and University of Waterloo, are from Ontario, Canada.
Econse develops water and wastewater solutions for niche problems facing SMEs and local businesses across Canada. After working with craft brewers to provide onsite treatment with its BrüClean System, Econse began exploring ways that its technology could be adapted to help other larger environmental issues.
The University of Waterloo is competing with its Phosphex™ technology, which can be installed as a horizontal reactive barrier below a septic system tile field, as a vertical barrier located in the pathway of horizontally flowing contaminated water sources, or within an enclosed treatment container. Compared to other similar remediation technologies, the Phosphex™ technology is a low-cost and easily-installed passive reactive system that does not require any pumping, chemicals, or immediate maintenance after the installation is complete.
The other global competitors include the University of Idaho Clean Water Machine (United States), Wetsus NaFRAd (Netherlands), Green Water Solution, Inc. (United States), U.S. Geological Survey (United States), ZeroPhos (China), MetaMateria Technologies LLC (United States), ESSRE (United States), and Rocky Mountain Scientific (United States).
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