Today’s news:

City to convert algae to biofuel in project at Rockaway plant

The city is taking another eco-friendly step to help fight the pollution in Jamaica Bay.

The city Department of Environmental Protection announced two weeks ago that it would be starting a pilot project at the Rockaway Wastewater treatment plant that includes a machine that would convert algae into biofuel. The wastewater from the plant produces excess nitrogen, which is eventually discharged into Jamaica Bay.

Although the chemical element´╗┐ has been killing saltwater marshlands in the ecosystem, the machine would use the same wastewater to grow algae that would be converted to a new fuel source, according to DEP Commissioner Cas Halloway.

“This project is still in the pilot phase, but the results are promising; we can convert algae grown from the wastewater New Yorkers produce every day to high-quality fuel that can be put right in your gas tank,” he said in a statement.

The machine will have two 350-foot-long metal troughs and mimic an ecosystem through ´╗┐varying flow currents and using sunlight to promote algae growth, according to the DEP. Nearly 40 gallons of wastewater will be poured a minute into the machine to grow the algae, the DEP said.

The algae, grown in 10- to 14-day intervals, is then removed by special vacuums that separate the water and the algae and is shipped to a special chemical plant at the University of Arkansas, according to the city.

Scientists there convert the algae into biofuel that can be used in all sorts of products, including cars, the DEP said.

Jamaica Bay has been losing great amounts of its wetland over the last 70 years due to the excess nitrogen and the city has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade to stop the decay. Future upgrades to the wastewater treatment plants located around the bay will ensure less nitrogen discharge, the DEP said.

Over the summer, the agency introduced eelgrass and oysters into the bay, which is home to dozens of species of wildlife, in an effort to counter the nitrogen naturally.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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