Ozone will be the next weaponBy Rosemarie Bernardo
to fight stinky algae in
the Capitol pool
ALGAE-EATING tilapia, prison inmate labor and chlorine bleach haven't worked.
Now the state is hoping a new $90,000 ozone treatment system will be the solution to a smelly problem that has plagued the state Capitol since it was built in 1969 -- keeping the reflecting pools surrounding the building clean and free of algae.
Raymond Sato, comptroller for the state Department of Accounting and General Services, is optimistic that a new system will solve what has so far been an expensive and persistent problem.
"We're told that ozone will function in salty or fresh water, he said. "The degree of certainty that it's going to work is high."
The state will use the system for one year on a trial basis. If successful, the cost of keeping the pool clean will be just $5,000 a year, Sato said.
"If everything works out according to plan, we should have a pond that is cleaner and free from algae," he added.
The state has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the years to deal with the algae problem.
The water in the pools comes from a brackish water well. The high salt-water content and exposure to lots of sunlight creates ideal growing conditions for the algae.
When the Star-Bulletin did a story on the problem in December 1998, the state was paying $74,000 a year for something called a mixed oxidant generator to clean the pools. In 1993, before the Capitol renovation, the state was paying $31,000 annually when tilapia lived in the pools.
The company that will install the ozone system by July, Berkley Engineering Inc., says ozone will create a high concentrated level of oxygen designed to chemically burn off algae.
Curtis Lee, Berkley's service manager, said ozone generators will be next to the water pumps in the parking garage area of the Capitol. Ozone will be added to the water pulled out by the pumps, which will then be returned to the reflecting pools, Lee said.
Using ozone, nature's oxidizing agent, is environmentally friendly, Lee said.
Currently, about 12 bottles of chlorine bleach are poured into the pools once a week to help get rid of the odor and algae, according to Rickie Naka, custodian at the state Capitol.
About three state workers clean the pools on a daily basis, Naka said. Prison inmates scrub and remove algae in nets from the pools at least once a week.
Even with all that effort, there are still complaints about the reflecting pools.
"Employees who want to eat lunch outside can't stand the odor. The enjoyment is lost," said Sen. Rod Tam (D, Pauoa). "Visitors have passed by and said it smells awful."