A demonstration on Maui shows how a filter system can turn a residential nuisance into valuable fertilizer
WAILUKU » Maui County and state officials are testing a pump and filter system that would remove algae from beaches and use it for fertilizer.
A demonstration of the removal-and-screening system was done Thursday at the beach fronting the Maui Sunset Condominium in Kihei.
"If we get a handle on this, it would be great all the way around," said Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares.
Condominium and homeowners in South and West Maui have complained in the past about the buildup of algae on the beaches and its accompanying smell and potential health hazard.
In the past, Maui Sunset has paid to have heavy machinery scrape the seaweed off the beach and pile it near its southern boundary near a county park restroom.
County officials say the current scraping practice takes sand from the beach and also allows the chemicals in the algae to decompose and re-enter the ocean, contributing to high nutrient levels that help to cause the continuation of algae growth.
GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares examines the pumping system removing algae from a beach in Kihei. The county is developing a system that would allow the algae to be removed and used as compost.
The $10,000 pilot project, funded by the county in cooperation with the state, involves using a small bulldozer to scrape the algae into a pile near the shoreline.
The algae is then placed into the ocean where it is cleaned of sand and then sucked into a hose with a 6-inch centrifugal pump.
The hose empties into a large container where a screen captures the algae but allows the water to return to the ocean.
The seaweed is expected to be taken to be used by local farmers and Maui Nui Botanical Gardens for composting, the county said.
The system has some similarities to the Super Sucker system used to remove algae from the underwater reef in Kaneohe Bay, said Brian Parschal, operations supervisor for the Super Sucker.
The Super Sucker was developed jointly through the University of Hawaii's Department of Botany, the state Division of Aquatic Resources and the Nature Conservancy.
Parschal, an engineer, said he was asked by the UH Botany Department to help develop the equipment for the project on Maui.
The Super Sucker is capable to removing about 800 pounds of algae an hour in Kaneohe Bay.
Parschal said he thinks the system being developed on Maui for beach clearing should be able to remove more algae.
"It went very well. It looks very doable," Parschal said.