SolarBees® aeration systems were sold to the City of Lakewood with the promise of solving a water quality and toxic algae problem that has plagued this lake for years. They were removed and returned to the company after a on year trial. The president of the lake association indicated that they failed to meet 8 of 10 performance promises.
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The response provided from SolarBee, Inc.
Lake Steilacoom is a 320-acre residential lake used for swimming, boating, water skiing, and fishing. This lake has a very long history of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms, invasive aquatic macrophyte growth, and years of herbicide applications and historical copper sulfate treatments. In 2005, aquatic weeds and blue-green algae blooms covered the lake, with water column visibility around 1-3 feet – typical summer conditions for many years. The 1-year test began in November 2005 with the installation of 9 SolarBee units. During the summer of 2006 there were no significant algal blooms, water clarity often reached down to the lake bottom at 17+ feet, and submersed aquatic weeds were only sporadically present from 0-12 feet in depth (the depth of the SolarBee intake hoses), though there were some plants present below 12 feet and in the southern part of the lake that receives the majority of nutrients. Many residents expressed great appreciation for the dramatically improved water clarity and lack of odors in the summer of 2006, and also noted increased populations of fish fingerlings along near-shore areas.
Unfortunately, the test conditions changed on August 28, 2006, when Mr. Doug Dorling, a chemical applicator with 20+ years experience in Washington who was also the contracted lake manager at the time, applied herbicides in the south end of the lake and turned off the two SolarBees in the area for about 1 week. The exact extent to which these actions contributed to the significant blue-green algae bloom that began around September 8th cannot be ascertained, but these blooms often occur following herbicide applications because of the flood of algal nutrients released from decomposing plants.
Ultimately, because of that algal bloom and following Mr. Dorling’s recommendation, the Lake Steilacoom Improvement Club requested to end the test and be refunded according to the original agreement. SolarBee, Inc.’s offer to have the units remain for one more year risk-free and completely at our cost was rejected without comment. SolarBee, Inc. immediately reimbursed the machine costs and removed the units. Nevertheless, we are very pleased with the results achieved in Lake Steilacoom during the summer of 2006, and believe that any assertions that the SolarBees “did not work” are not based on reputable science or public perception. Since the SolarBees were removed, the lake has returned to its former poor water quality. In fact, in 2008 Lake Steilacoom recorded a microcystin-LR concentration of 594 μg/L, the 5th highest of all lakes sampled by the Washington Dept. of Ecology.