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Israeli water tech company forefronts world’s battle to save water bodies from ecological disaster

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BlueGreen Water Technologies CEO and co-founder Eyal Harel explained that ‘toxic algal blooms present an immediate and present danger to the environment, to health and to the economy.’

By ILANIT CHERNICK

As climate change shifts the ecosystem, toxic and harmful algal blooms are starting to become a more common phenomenon in water bodies around the world. 

But Israeli water tech company BlueGreen Water Technologies is at the forefront of this battle and is ready to fight tooth and nail. 

Earlier this year, the Israeli team was called in to save Florida’s Lake Okeechobee from an ecological disaster due to the spread of toxic algae. And they were successful. This was just another win for the company on the ecological front.

Speaking about their work, CEO and co-founder of the company Eyal Harel explained to IsraelNewsStand that BlueGreen Water Technologies “was borne out of a burning need to cure a global, rampant pandemic that has been devastating the environment, hurting people’s lives and livelihoods all over the world.”

“BlueGreen’s founders decided that after many years of researching every little aspect of harmful algal blooms, it was time to put that knowledge into practice and come up with a viable, scalable solution that will be able to rehabilitate lakes and seas,” he said.  

Dr. Moshe Harel, the BlueGreen Water Technologies CTO, takes water measurements in Florida. (Credit: BlueGreen Water Technologies)

Asked about toxic algal blooms, Harel explained that “toxic algal blooms present an immediate and present danger to the environment, to health and to the economy.” 

“A toxic algal bloom happens when certain photosynthetic microorganisms begin to multiply uninterruptedly until they overtake the entire aquatic ecosystem. In extreme cases they make the aquatic environment too hostile to other forms of life, turning the waterbody into a ‘dead aquatic zone’,” he explained. “While exploding in numbers, toxic algal blooms tend to change the biological and chemical properties in the water to their advantage. In part, they do so by excreting an array of toxins into the water, some of which are extremely dangerous to humans and animals.”

Harel stressed that under bloom conditions, “contaminated water should be avoided for consumption, recreation and irrigation.” 

More, he said, is the fact that seafood caught in contaminated water “may also be toxic after having absorbed the toxins in its organs.” 

He pointed out that these “toxins can become airborne” through aerosol rising from the water and not only that, they can “travel miles off a contaminated water body, affecting nearby communities.”

According to Harel, a toxic algal bloom is a 4-dimensional problem, which presents primarily on the upper layers of the waterbody.
“It moves all the time with winds and currents and it multiplies all the time,” he added. 

To deal with this phenomenon, BlueGreen has developed a series of products that are based on market-approved active ingredients including copper and hydrogen peroxide, “coated in an inert biodegradable polymer that enables them to float and to time-release.” 

“In the water, the product acts like a ‘silver bullet’ being exactly where it needs to be and when it needs to be,” Harel explained. “As a result, BlueGreen surgically uses minute doses to make an impact. More importantly, the long accurate exposure between the bloom and the product creates a minor, long-lasting oxidative stress, to which the toxic species are extremely sensitive.” 

This creates what’s called oxidative stress, which triggers a biological chain reaction that causes the toxic species, naïve communities included, “to undergo programmed cell death (PCD), or in other words, to undergo a collective suicide.” 

It then leads to a strong impact on the toxic species within as little as 24 hours. 

“Once the toxic species are decimated, non-toxic species can retake the ecological niche and serve their natural, competitive role as buffers against a toxic algal resurgence, giving the treatment a long-acting prospect,” Harel emphasized.

BlueGreen Water Technologies at work in the water. (Credit: Courtesy)

Discussing the role climate change is playing in the toxic algal blooms, Harel explained that the warmer water temperatures are a factor, but they are also influenced by many different parameters. 

“Temperature is considered an important factor,” he said. “Although blooms can be found under cold conditions as well, warm water certainly contributes to and accelerate their development.”

Harel told IsraelNewsStand that BlueGreen’s primary motivation “is to help people enjoy the basic human right of having access to clean water.” 

In addition to the economic toll, caused by toxic algal blooms, “local communities, especially poor ones, have to deal with the direct consequences associated with water availability and water quality.” 

Harel highlighted that BlueGreen is active in the African continent “where water is both scarce as well as failing to meet basic standards. With toxic algal blooms irradicated, local communities can now enjoy more, better water than before.”

The water tech company is also commercially present in Israel, the US, China and South Africa, and they are exploring collaborations in other territories, including Russia, India, Mexico, Chile and Guatemala.

Asked what 2021 has in store for BlueGreen, Harel said they plan to continue expanding their operations, globally, during 2021. 

“Even under the worst conditions, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, BlueGreen was able to break records when treating more and bigger lakes than ever been attempted before,” he said. In June 2020, under the most severe travel restrictions and in the midst of the pandemic, BlueGreen cleared Nanhu Lake, which is some 150 km from Wuhan, China and was COVID-19’s ‘“Ground Zero”. 

As the company wants to help disadvantaged communities, “we aim at increasing local awareness of this problem as well as to the solution.” 

“Galvanizing them into action will turn the problem of toxic algal blooms into a matter of the past,” Harel concluded.

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