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Madison college students create algae-removal system

Dick Lathrop, a retired lake researcher with the Department of Natural Resources, gestures as he talks about a machine built to extract algae from lakes, designed by introduction to engineering students at Madison Area Technical College, as student David Stolzenberg, Paul Dearlove, watershed program manager with Clean Lakes Alliance, student Jason Yogerst, and student James Doherty, look on outside the school in Madison, Wis. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Dick Lathrop (left), a retired lake researcher with the Department of Natural Resources, gestures as he talks about a machine built to extract algae from lakes. The algae-removal system was designed by engineering students at Madison Area Technical College, including David Stolzenberg, Jason Yogerst and James Doherty. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A system that clears up surface-level algae by slurping it away and depositing it into a dumpster will make its debut this summer in Madison lakes.

Engineering students at Madison Area Technical College designed and developed the system to address algae blooms that have caused beach closures in recent years. The group of about 25 students were hired by the local nonprofit Clean Lakes Alliance and given a $5,000 budget, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Their system begins with a floating metal platform that pushes muck through an intake tube. The muck then moves through a 20-foot hose to a high-powered pump on shore, before it continues through a 100-foot hose leading to a large dumpster, where water is separated from sludge with a mesh screen. The water is deposited back into the lake, while the algae stays in the dumpster.

“Think of it like an algae lawnmower,” said Jason Yogerst, one of the lead students in Ken Walz’s engineering class at Madison Area Technical College.

The students plan to hold the algae-removal system’s trial run late next month at Warner Park Beach on Lake Mendota’s north shore.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for years,” said Richard Lathrop, a retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources scientist with an honorary position at UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology. “This project is really moving the whole issue forward. The students have done an amazing job.”

If the method is successful, it will be expanded to other beaches in future years. But the system only will treat problems caused by algae as part of a larger effort to reduce pollution and runoff causing the region’s water-quality issues, according to Paul Dearlove, watershed project manager for Madison-based Clean Lakes Alliance.

“This is an opportunity for us to make beaches cleaner and easier for the public to use,” he said.

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