College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Environmental Science & Technology

Algal Turf Scrubber Wins BUBBA

The award-winning Algal Turf Scrubber installed in the Port of Baltimore
Image Credit: 
Edwin Remsberg

The latest project by ENST's Dr. Patrick Kangas and Biohabitats' Dr. Peter May, a water filtration system using Algal Turf Scrubber™ (ATS) technology, has been gaining recognition in the environmental science community. The project recently won a competition hosted by the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, winning the Best Urban BMP on the Bay Award (BUBBA), which awards the most efficient storm water management system in the Chesapeake Bay.

The ATS system that Kangas and May installed in the Port of Baltimore won first place in the Innovation category and third place in the people’s choice award. Other categories included Best Stream Restoration, Best Habitat Creation, Best Combination of BMPs in a Series, Homeowner BMPs, and Ultra-Urban BMPs.

Kangas is understandably pleased about winning the award, but its more than just pride in his work. “This award is a big deal on its own but it also paves the way for even bigger things,” he says, “like a certification from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) which will help spread the use of this technology.” The EPA certification will prove that ATS technology is effective and allow for it to begin to be used on a larger scale.

But what is ATS technology? The Algal Turf Scrubber was developed by Walter Adey and uses communities of algae to simulate the water-modifying effects of natural reef algae. The Algal Ecotechnology Center; a research center founded by Kangas, has been developing ways of using ATS technology to manage water quality in the Chesapeake area. Their project consists of a community of natural algae attached to screens that are placed in shallow treatment channels or raceways. The process involves pumping water over the screens, allowing the algae to extract the pollutants. “Periodic harvest of algae removes pollutants from the water that have been incorporated in the algal biomass,” says Kangas.

“Algal production for water quality improvement demonstrates that the technology removes nutrients and sediments while adding dissolved oxygen to the water,” explains Kangas. “Furthermore, the algal biomass produced by this process, can be used as a feedstock for biofuel, fertilizer and other potentially valuable byproducts.”

Kangas and May are excited for the future of algal ecotechnology. "We're working in the Port of Baltimore and getting lots of interest from other cities and municipalities. We were already on track for a BMP certification but this kind of recognition from an independent source will definitely help with the process." 

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