Thursday, July 3, 2008

More pre-Olympics fun and games

To go with the report (below) about Chinese police using Segway scooters, I had to smile at the story of the algae threat to the Olympic sailing venue in Qingdao.

China's been dumping untreated sewage and unfiltered industrial chemicals into its rivers and off its coastline for decades. With the economic boom in recent years, the quantities involved have become astronomically large - and all that pollution produces very, very fertile conditions for the growth of algae. In fact, algae is Nature's answer to such pollution, as it eats the stuff.

Unfortunately, algae doesn't take international sporting contests into account: so it's taken over about a third of the Olympic sailing venue. The Chinese are working flat-out to remove it, with over 10,000 workers and volunteers involved - but as fast as they remove the stuff, more floats in.

Nicknamed 'The Blob', this vast algal bloom is hampering the British Olympic team's training - their boat repeatedly becoming stuck in the quagmire. With the texture of wet hair and starting to smell like a strongly fishy soup, it is no wonder that the Chinese authorities are desperately trying to get rid of it.

... They have already managed to clear more than 170,000 tonnes, and Chinese officials are predicting that the clean-up will take another two weeks.

But, worryingly, there are whispers that the algae is beginning to creep back into those areas that have already been weeded.

All this has, once again, pushed China's environmental problems into the spotlight.

While officials are blaming a new exotic type of algae blown in on warmer seas, scientists are looking to pollution as the most likely cause.

High levels of nutrients in the water can cause algae to bloom at alarming rates. Tom Wang, an expert on water pollution in Beijing, has concluded that: 'These algae blooms are due to farmers using too much fertiliser and cities failing to treat their sewage.'

None of which seems to have deterred some locals from swimming in the stuff - dragging strands of it out of the sea as they emerge. Despite its horror movie looks, the algae bloom is not, in itself, harmful. Quite the opposite - by absorbing carbon dioxide, it actually helps to clean the water beneath. And if you really took a fancy to it, the algae would be perfectly safe to eat.

Athletes call it the blob, the carpet, the fairway, the serious problem.

"We almost think of it as land," said Carrie Howe, a member of the U.S. team and her three-person squad's unofficial algae remover. During practice, she dips her hand into the goo three or four times an hour to remove it from the rudder.

When it collects shaggily on the boat's tow rope, she and her teammates refer to it as "the dog." They've named it Hickory.

I'm thinking of taking bets on who's going to win - the Chinese, or the algae!



MadRocketScientist said...

If they were smart, they'd take all that algea and turn it into fertilizer for the farmers.

Peter Maier said...

Although the Chinese Government stated that sewage is treated, it probably is treated similar as in the Western World, where nitrogenous (urine and proteins) are not treated, while this waste like fecal waste not only exerts an oxygen demand, but in all its forms is a fertilizer for algae and aquatic plants. The reason it is not treated, is the result of a worldwide incorrect applied pollution test, developed in 1920 and by most governments used to set discharge requirements for sewage treatment.

In this Chinese case they deal with excessive algae growth, probably because of an enclosed water body and very hot temperatures, but the same thing is happening all over the world and this nutrient enrichment is responsible for many dead zones (8000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico) and red tides, especially along shores near large populated areas in the world.
More noticeable in waters, a similar phenomenon happens on land, due to increased nitrogenous oxides (also a fertilizer) in the atmosphere creating green rain (rain with fertilizer) and causing excessive grass growth and undergrowth in forest during wet weather. These grasses and undergrowth during dry weather becomes kindle wood and now wild fires are so intense that even the large trees in forest burn. When their roots do not hold the soil, it causes land erosion and mud slides.
If you like to learn more about this essential test and why it in the USA caused the failure of the Clean water Act, visit my website

Don said...


May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

Our site:

Title: Beijing Olympics

Please let me know if you want a link back.
Many thanks for your reply.

Best Regards,