RACINE — New floating islands were installed at Quarry Lake Park this week in hopes of improving water quality at the beach.
The floating islands, which are made of PVC pipes and milk crates with bulrush plants, were being installed at the park. Bulrush are an aquatic plant native to the region.
The hope is that the islands will remove nutrients from the water that make algae thrive.
“They will uptake nutrients that would otherwise be available to algae, basically,” said Ben Haas, a park manager for Racine County. “The hope is they will compete with that algae.”
In the 2017 budget, County Executive Jonathan Delagrave allocated $25,000 to study how to improve water quality and the environment at Quarry Lake Park, Julie Anderson director of Public Works and Development Services for Racine County said.
“We had presentations from different consultants who came to our Public Works Parks and Facility Committee earlier this year and gave presentations on what they thought might work or some approaches of trying to clean the water to knock the weeds down and get more clarity in the water,” Anderson said.
Presentations were provided by Stephen Lyon and Patrick Hailey, who owns an enzyme company in Kansasville. Hailey gave an overview of what kind of enzymes would effectively take down weeds and help with sediment problems.
All came to the same conclusion: That relatively inexpensive islands could potentially provide a solution to water quality issues at Quarry Lake.
In May, the county approved spending up to $10,000 of the $25,000 budgeted for water treatment procedures at Quarry Lake Park, Anderson said.
The project was worked on by the county with assistance by the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps.
In addition to training and educating disadvantaged residents, Great Lakes CCC focuses on environmental issues including the improvement of water quality.
Ben Maier, a 19-year-old conservation biology major at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a volunteer with the Great Lakes CCC, participated in the project as part of an internship.
“I’ve been coming out here for one night a week for the past three or four weeks and meeting up and helping plan the logistics of it and build the prototypes,” Maier said.
Great Lakes CCC helped during the building, planting and placing process of the islands. Maier said that the islands will help by filtering out nitrates that come from impurities that fall into the water.
“It’s taken weeks to put together,” Haas said. “It took a day to build them (the islands). Then we planted them another day and then put them all together.”
If the project works to improve water quality at Quarry Lake Park, it might be implemented in other area beaches and lakes.
“We’re going to see what’s going on and see how it works before we make any other decisions or commitments,” said Dave Prott, Highway and Park Superintendent for Racine County.
“Those are now set in place and we’re going to see if they have any effect over time,” Anderson said.