Trial uses clay to combat algal growth

Wednesday, 21 February, 2024

Trial uses clay to combat algal growth

The Western Australian Government is putting clay to innovative use in a trial to improve water quality in the Peel-Harvey (Bindjareb Djilba) estuary catchment.

Many waterways in WA, such as the Serpentine River (Waangaamaap Bilya), can receive excess phosphorus from fertiliser use in their catchment. This potentially causes algal growth that can lead to fish kills and adverse human health impacts.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) has been developing a novel clay known as Hydrotalcite clay, or HT-clay. It is made from a natural bentonite clay modified with hydrotalcite: a phosphorus binding mineral. During the manufacturing process, several raw ingredients are mixed together, causing chemical reactions where the clay becomes coated in the phosphorus binding material.

When scientists from Healthy Estuaries WA applied the clay-based treatment to a drain in the catchment of the Peel-Harvey estuary, the clay successfully bound up to 95% of phosphorus at the treatment site, preventing it from fuelling algal growth in the downstream waterways.

“The phosphorus binding clay is a Western Australian invention and demonstrates the innovative new approaches our state government is taking to look after the health of our precious waterways,” said Water Minister Simone McGurk.

“The groundbreaking research in the Peel-Harvey estuary complements the important work Healthy Estuaries WA is doing to reduce the amount of fertiliser applied to farms.

“While there is much work happening in the catchment to reduce nutrient inputs for the future, this is showing promising signs of how to address the high levels of nutrients that are polluting some of our waterways right now.”

The clay production and distribution were funded by the WA Government’s Bindjareb Djilba Protection Plan and Healthy Estuaries WA program.

Healthy Estuaries WA is a $25 million state government initiative focused on improving the health of Peel-Harvey estuary, Leschenault Estuary, Vasse-Geographe waterways, Hardy Inlet, Wilson Inlet, Torbay Inlet and Oyster Harbour.

Image caption: Dawesville Channel, between the Peel-Harvey Estuary and the Indian Ocean. Image credit: Jacyno

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