News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Akron General

Meaden & Moore


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


From pollution to environmental problem solver
What once went up in smoke, now powders farm fields
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
sample of powdered gypsum from a smoke scrubber at the Sammis Power Plant on the Ohio River
Courtesy of tpr
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Forty years ago, Akron was one the first communities in the nation to ban phosphates from detergent. The idea was to keep phosphates out of our water. Now, researchers in northern Ohio are out front again with an idea for keeping phosphates out of our lakes and streams -- by using smokestack scrubbers. WKSU’s Tim Rudell explains.

Click to listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (3:47)


(Click image for larger view.)

The massive coal-burning Sammis Power Plant on the Ohio River north of Steubenville uses scrubbers to clear pollutants from the smoke it sends up its giant stacks. The phosphorus control idea starts with a by-product of those scrubbers.

Warren Dick is a professor of soil and environmental chemistry at the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center: “When you burn coal you produce sulfur dioxide gasses, and the Clean Air Act has required the removal of that because of acid rain, and they make this by product called gypsum, calcium sulfate.”

Gypsum is used for a number of things, including wall board. But, it turns out it also solves an environmental problem; it prevents phosphorous in farm fertilizers from getting into streams and lakes. That’s a problem thought to have been brought under control in the 1980s. “A lot of phosphorus that was getting into our lakes was piggybacking on sediment…erosion. So they really pushed hard on conservation practices, tillage, and no tillage. It cut down the sediment phosphorous loading into Lake Erie. Then about 1990, they started to see this other thing going up, and that is soluble phosphorous loading.”

Phosphorus loading occurs when an unusual amount of the chemical accumulates in a body of water.  Changes in how and when fertilizer is applied have made it easier for rain to dissolve phosphates and wash them out of the fields and into streams and lakes. 

Kent State University oceanography professor Joseph Ortiz uses satellite images and other technologies to track the effects of that phosphate flow. He and his team monitor algae growth in Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary’s and other state parks — where huge algae blooms have posed threats to health. Ortiz explains phosphorous spurs algae growth once it gets to lakes because tiny plants eat it.  “When you put that additional nutrient in the lake, the microscopic plants suddenly had access to tremendous amounts of food, and they went to town with it.”

But, Dick’s Ohio State research team is getting positive results in tests spreading powdered gypsum from the smoke scrubbers on farm fields to head off phosphate migration. Gypsum forms bonds with the phosphorous in the fertilizer in a way that makes it less soluble in water, and therefore more likely to stay put on the crops it is intended to nourish.  

The gypsum from smoke scrubbers that is at the root of all the research is entirely from First Energy’s Sammis plant, where nearly half a million tons of it was produced last year. That will drop off in the future, however,  because the company has scaled Sammis back to “as needed” operations as part of its strategy to reduce the use of coal in power generation. 

Listener Comments:

You can keep an eye on Lake Erie's current conditions by checking out the twice-daily satellite photos posted to the Great Lakes Coastwatch website:

http://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/modis/modis.php?region=e


Posted by: Chris Mentrek (Cleveland) on February 26, 2013 8:02AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Crystal Ball says Ohio governor's race is done
How much is the Kasich campaign paying you to keep repeating the phrase "woman who is not his wife"? Fitzgerald was in the car with a friend who happens to be f...

Plane that crashed killing Case students is a popular training aircraft
The following is incorrect. The last few words should read "UNDER maximum gross take-off weight." “They have a normal take-off speed and all those take-off...

Exploradio: The never-ending war against superbugs
Super Federico ,we are so proud of you ,and very lucky to be among your friends . Keep it up human kind needs people like you to survive .Thanks for being so d...

Ohio's Lyme disease-carrying tick population is exploding
Interesting report. The last sentence needs some editing. It isn't a good idea to "save garments carrying ticks for analysis." The garments carrying t...

Teach for America enters third year in Ohio
For more background on TFA, check out http://reconsideringtfa.wordpress.com/

Faith leaders hold week-long prayer vigil at Ohio Statehouse
I think this is the wrong link to the audio. Its Andy Chow about cigarette taxes.

A $30 million plan to turn Cleveland's Public Square from gray to green
The current plan is for the Land Bank, RTA, and Mr. Jeremy Paris to run a bus line through the new Public Square and cutting the park in half. Save Public Squar...

Medina County residents question safety of proposed natural gas pipeline
I'm very concerned about this nexus project. I've received mail requesting my permission to allow the company to survey my property. I don't understand how thi...

A small group of tea party and Democrats protest at Kasich campaign stop
Enjoyed your excellent coverage of the statehouse for sometime now, never dreamed I'd be on. The feedback from people has been great. Thank you. Doris Adams

Top staffers are leaving the FitzGerald gubernatorial campaign
I's too bad that the dirt on Fitzgerald dug up by Kasich's operatives and publicized heavily by the Yellow Plain Dealer has caused the weak staffers of the Fitz...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University