Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ocean clean up Chinese pre-Olympic style

What do you do when you have a huge embarrasing algae problem? An algae bloom that threatens to undermine your standing in the world's eyes by stopping Olympic sailing vessels dead in the water by snarling them in green goo (photo at right)?

Simple, if you're China, you "recruit" people to clean it up by hand (photo below left).

News reports estimate as many as 20,000 people have either volunteered or been ordered to participate in the operation, while 1,000 boats are scooping algae out of the Yellow Sea.
Uh...make that the Yellow-Green Sea. How bad is it? The algae mess affects 5,000 square miles of ocean and more than 100,000 tons have already been hauled away. Wow, that's one big algae bloom.

Where did this mess come from? Likely culprits include the untreated sewage dumped into the ocean from many Chinese cities, along with the heavy nitrate runoff from rivers that drain farmland. Because of these problems algae blooms and red tides are common along the Chinese coastline.

Chinese officials insist that these problems have nothing to do with the algae that threatens to eat the Olympics, blaming warm water and heavy rains instead. I've studied algae blooms, and you just don't get the kind of mess in the photo above from heavy rains and warm water. That's not credible, especially in the face of known nutrient pollution problems from people.

Ironic turn of events for an Olympics that were promised by Chinese officials to be "green." Yeah, a bit too green.


Anonymous said...

This is simply the ocean equivalent of the sh__ (waste from billions of people, livestock, and crops) hitting the fan (ocean/estuarine mixing).

Anonymous said...

Can they at least harvest the algae for food or fertilizer? What would they do with so much?

Mark Powell said...

hitting the fan, I like it. I do think they're using it for fertilizer, closing the nutrient cycle.