Phosphate levels too high

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AHOSKIE – Phosphorous is an important plant nutrient, but too much of this substance can harm the environment.

Among the its many uses, Phosphorous (Phosphate) is found in laundry detergents, aiding those products in their efficiency to clean clothing.

Stewart White, Superintendent of the Ahoskie Wastewater Plant, is reporting high levels of Phosphorus coming into the treatment facility. That results in expending additional dollars to treat the substance, lowering the amount of Phosphorus in the affluent to acceptable levels.

“It’s getting to be fairly expensive,” White said of the money spent to treat the high levels of Phosphorus.

This summer, White has recorded Phosphorus levels as high as nine parts per million coming into the treatment facility located on Johnny Mitchell Road. He said normally those levels are in the four-to-six parts per million range.

“We know we have to treat the affluent for Phosphorus, but we’ve never seen the incoming levels this high,” White noted. “We have to treat the water to comply with our permit with the (North Carolina) Division of Water Quality. Our permit limit for Phosphorus is one part per million.”

To assist White and his staff, as well as helping the town save money on expensive treatments, he is asking Ahoskie citizens and business owners (those offering laundry services) to purchase non-phosphate detergents.

“There are many brands out there you can buy,” White said. “I recently purchased recently an American made, non-phosphate detergent from Sam’s Club, but you don’t have to drive out of town to make this type of purchase. Just check the label on the laundry detergent you buy from your favorite store. You can help us and help the environment.”

Detergents are soaps made from synthetic materials and have a long history of being loaded with Phosphates. Phosphates help boost the cleaning efficiency of detergent, but have harmful effects on rivers, lakes, streams, and other fresh waters. The chemical causes algae in the water grow faster than normal, turning clear lakes and rivers green and cloudy. This extra algal growth is not only unappealing to look at, but can also make the water smell bad and make it unsuitable for swimming.

In the long run, the excessive algae growth can have devastating impacts on the health and age of a fresh water lake or river, causing eutrophication to speed up, where lakes and other water bodies fill in with dead algae and other organic matter and eventually turn into dry land.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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