Turfgrass Council of North Carolina – Interview with Bo Burns (Nanobubble Aeration)
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North Carolina Turfgrass – The Turf Zone Interviews Bo Burns, Market Development Manager at SOLitude Lake Management
The Turf Zone: Welcome to the Turf Zone. In this episode we’re speaking with Bo Burns, Market Development Manager at SOLitude Lake Management. He specializes in research and development of new technologies using more than 30 years of industry experience along with a Masters of Environmental Management degree in Resource and Wetland Ecology from Duke University. Welcome, Bo.
Bo Burns: Good morning! It’s a pleasure to be here.
TTZ: So we’re going to jump right in to discussing nanobubble aeration. First of all, why is aeration important in lakes and ponds?
BB: Well, I think it’s pretty well established that aeration has proven to be a real important part to lake and pond management. There’s several really important things that it helps to do. Number one, it helps to provide a mixing of the water, so you don’t have stagnant water. And I think most of us can understand and we all can believe that every time that we can put more oxygen into the system, it provides a lot of benefits. Not only for the aquatic life, but also for some indirect benefits. For example, we like to believe that there’s beneficial bacteria that works in our behavior. And when you have a well-oxygenated waterbody, you’re promoting those beneficial bacteria to help break down a lot of the nutrients that we have in lakes and ponds. There’s a lot of benefits – not only from aesthetic reasons, but for health reasons.
TTZ: So how do your turfgrass managers who are also managing waterbodies know which aeration solution is right for their specific waterbody?
BB: That’s a great question, and I think the easiest answer to that is to utilize some of the experts that are out there. SOLitude lake management is one of many. We have a slew of market development specialists that have a lot of experience with this and our technicians are well-versed in not only installing, but in helping to justify or quantify which system is best for your situation. Every situation is a little bit different, so you really need to take a look at it and determine, based on your size, your depth of the waterbody, what that waterbody is used for, whether it’s just for irrigation, or is it just for helping filter water out – all those different reasons for evaluating can be done with the right person. So my suggestion is reaching out to qualified people to get their help and get their advice and I’m sure that they can develop the best system for your need.
TTZ: How is nanobubble aeration different from traditional submersed aeration or floating fountains?
BB: Nanobubbles are different in the sense that most traditional aeration systems provide bubbles that are large and help provide mixing of your waterbody. Those bubbles will rise from the bottom and a lot of that will go to the top and they burst and the oxygen is actually released into the atmosphere, whereas it does provide additional aeration to your waterbody, sometimes we have small or shallow waterbodies, traditional aeration doesn’t allow for as much oxygen in the water as we really would like it to be or need it to be. So nanobubbles are produced, they’re really really tiny bubbles, they’re dense and they don’t float—they don’t go to the top, they don’t move from the bottom to the top and don’t release into the atmosphere. Nanobubbles will actually accumulate. When they’re produced, they have a negative charge to them, so they’ll attach themselves to positively charged items like organic matter or nutrients that are found in the waterbody and as those bubbles kind of form a carpet, they go along the bottom and that’s really important because the bottom is where it’s listed as anoxic, most people say that there’s no oxygen at the bottom. Most of your oxygen accumulates more in the upper levels of the waterbody, so if you can have bubbles that are produces that kind of forma carpet along the bottom and they release and they implode on themselves over time. And when they do, that’s when they release oxygen back into the system. When those nanobubble systems are run for longer periods of time, it will accumulate throughout the whole water column. So you’ll basically get a uniform mixing of those oxygen all throughout the whole waterbody. If you take a dissolved oxygen profile, you’ll actually see – and we have lots of experience where we’ve noticed that you’ll have pretty much uniform dissolved oxygen levels from the top to the bottom. That really helps to provide a really healthy growing environment for what we want, whether it’s fish or aquatic life, it really does make a difference. So those nanobubbles, probably the biggest difference is the size and the amount of oxygen they actually produce and put into the water.
TTZ: If we’re providing more oxygen, are we providing more oxygen for aquatic weed growth and harmful algal blooms, or is that something that nanobubble technology can be used to control?
BB: Great question, and yes, nanobubbles are definitely used to help provide control of harmful algal blooms. It has been shown and there’s documented research that has been done by NOAA. Research and scientific studies have shown that when you provide oxygen, high levels of oxygen into the aquatic environment, when those bubbles are released or they implode on themselves, they basically are providing oxidation. And that oxidation controls not only the harmful algal cells, but they also control the toxins as well. So nanobubbles have been shown that high levels of oxygen are very good at providing that oxidation to help control algal blooms. It also helps to control filamentous algae as well. The one thing that it’s really important to note and make sure that people realize and know is that it does not have a direct effect on aquatic weed growth. If the weeds are established, they’re going to stay established and oxygen, the high levels of oxygen, don’t have a direct effect on those weeds. We would recommend that if they have a weed problem, that probably other methods are used to help control those weeds. Then what nanobubbles will do in the long term is help provide an environment where we reduce the nutrient levels. If you reduce the nutrient levels in the long run, you can make it a less desirable environment for those weeds to actually grow in. So you can reduce them over time, but I’m reluctant to say that nanobubbles would have a direct effect on weeds, but they definitely have a direct effect on harmful algal blooms. The true benefit for nanobubbles is helping water quality and nutrient levels in algal blooms.
TTZ: How can nanobubble aeration help enhance our turf?
BB: That’s a really good question, an interesting question and actually you can find this in the literature. I don’t have the references right at my fingertips, but that can be obtained. We do have publications and referenced literature where there’s data that shows that nanobubbles, high levels of oxygen in irrigated water can really help promote a good, healthy turf. In fact, I think that most of the research work that’s been done, when nanobubbles first came out, were really based on agriculture, helping provide a better yield, healthier crops. It’s true for turf as well. When nanobubbles first came out, it was more for providing basically, thinking about sanitation in wastewater – helping to control and provide cleaner water. It went as far as being used to help provide control of bacteria in hospital settings, for example. Helping to sterilize hospital surgical equipment, things like that. As it progressed and became more popular, people started looking at it for turf. So there is literature that does support that nanobubbles provide for healthier and more beneficial turf. It is out there in the literature and we can help people find that if we need to.
TTZ: Is nanobubble aeration a permanent water quality solution?
BB: Nanobubble can be a permanent solution. It’s not the only solution. It’s probably best looking at it as an integrated approach to water quality. It’s one of many things that can be done to help improve water quality. We have experience where we establish nanobubble units and we’re letting them run for long periods of time. It is important to really monitor your dissolved oxygen levels because too much of a good thing can be a problem, so we want to monitor, we want to make sure that we keep the dissolved oxygen levels at a healthy, desireable level. Too much oxygen can cause sterilization, which is not what we want for a natural lake and pond. That may be true for drinking water and wastewater work, but for a natural lake or a natural pond, we want to maintain a desired level of oxygen and that can be done with running the machine on a timer that can be set for X amount of hours a day and X amount of days a week. So it can be established for long term. We have some units that we have incorporated for basically an emergency response. If we get a call for harmful algal bloom and you want to have something done immediately, then we look at a system maybe that puts output of more gallons per minute circulating water faster and we also have the ability to add ozone into those nanobubbles. Basically ozone is a more advanced form of oxygen. It provides a faster relief. So we can use it as a remediation or it can be used for long term. Different systems, different output – we use maybe a system that circulates water at a lower rate for a long-term solution. If you need an immediate, fast response, then we would look at using a system that uses more gallons per minute. But the whole point is that it’s just another integral part of helping water quality. A lot of people will have considered, and we have a lot of experience with adding beneficial bacteria into a system where we’re using nanobubbles. The beneficial bacteria helps to compete with nutrients and provides a healthier, more sustainable environment. So we actually recommend that in conjunction with nanobubble. It’s not an all-in-one, we just think it’s an integral part that can be incorporated into your water quality management program.
TTZ: That’s great information on nanobubble aeration. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing that information.
BB: Not a problem, if we can be of further help, let us know.
TTZ: Don’t miss an episode of The Turf Zone. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also visit us at theturfzone.com
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