Lakeland City Commissioners voted unanimously this week to accept a $1.685 million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to help remove algae from Lake Bonnet, using the sole-source, no-bid provider AECOM Technical Services.
“The grant award requires the use of innovative technology that can help mitigate harmful algal blooms by removing nutrients from Lake Bonnet and the nutrient load that’s discharged downstream during storm events that would flow from Lake Bonnet, reaching eventually the Hillsborough River and into Tampa Bay,” City Manager Shawn Sherrouse told commissioners.
Lake Bonnet has frequently been listed as one of the most polluted lakes in Lakeland. Lakeland has a list of nine priority lakes for which city officials have detailed plans to limit the total maximum nutrient load, including Lake Bonnet.
Sherrouse explained that AECOM’s proprietary design, called Hydronucleation Flotation Technology, removes the algae and associated nutrients and toxins from the water. The technology transforms the dewatered algae biomass into “biocrude.” The city’s agenda document explained that biocrude can be used in place of fossil oil products to reduce the dependency on them, provide a carbon-neutral biocrude oil that can be refined into sustainable aviation fuel, and eliminate the need for landfill disposal. The DEP grant agreement requires that the city sub-contracts with AECOM.
AECOM is a Texas corporation, with its principal executive office in Los Angeles. Troy Rudd is AECOM’s CEO, Karl Jensen is Executive Vice President of our National Governments business, and Matt Crane is Regional Chief Executive for our U.S. West region. In a letter to the city, AECOM states that it has proven experience on other algae harvesting projects in Lake Jesup in Seminole County and Lake Munson in Northwest Florida, along with work in Ohio and New York.
“The city and Bonnet Springs have partnered on this project, as well as the other larger grant that we’re all aware of,” Sherrouse said, referring to a 2021 $43 million grant through the Department of Economic Opportunity for improvements to the Lake Bonnet Drainage Basin.
“What would be included here would be a dock at Bonnet Springs Park that will be used to assemble and deploy the automatic intake pump structure to extract water from the pond at Bonner Springs Park, which is connected to Lake Bonnet,” Sherrouse explained. “The algae harvester will be self-sufficient and connected to an existing power line, with an internet connection for continuous and remote operations.”
The city is fronting the money and will be reimbursed once the project is completed. Commissioner Sam Simmons asked if the city had that amount in the budget and Sherrouse assured him the dollars are there.
Commissioner Chad McLeod then asked if the technology could be used in other lakes around town.
“We would consider doing this in other lakes if it proves to be a feasible and cost effective method,” said Laurie Smith with the city’s lakes and stormwater division. “So this kind of project, right now, is to test the methodology that AECOM has developed. And hopefully it works great and we can use it in other lakes in the future.”
Work is expected to begin within the next 60 days.
Correction: Information about AECOM Technical Services, its headquarters and its officers has been corrected.
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