Bacteria to clean Manatee County's water supply

Published June 15 2015

MANATEE — A $20 million project in Manatee County will use bacteria to clean and eliminate smells from the region's drinking water system.

The Bradenton Herald reported on Sunday that ground will be broken in July for the Lake Manatee water treatment plant.

The plan is for trillions of tiny bacteria to eat the stinky byproducts of blue green algae that give the growing county's water supply a musty, dirtlike smell. More than 350,000 people rely on the county's system for drinking water.

The bacteria are expected to do a better job than the carbon powder currently used to filter out the algae byproducts.

Bruce MacLeod, supervisor of the Lake Manatee reservoir treatment plant, said testing shows the bacteria-based system will work. Officials say the new system should pay for itself within 15 years by eliminating approximately $600,000 the county spends each year on carbon powder.

The county pumps most of its water from the lake, and officials say smells from the algae have long been a problem.

"It's an issue that has been there since the lake was formed," said Mark Simpson, manager of the county's water division.

The new treatment plant is designed to expand with Manatee County's growing population. On the boards are plans for an additional sludge pond and other facilities that will allow the plant to treat more water to meet increasing demands.