B&B owner’s algae anger

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A B&B owner is hosing City Hall over “passing the buck” in ridding Queenstown’s water supply of algae.

Neil Dempsey, who runs Coronet View Accommodation on Huff Street, is frustrated lake snot, produced by the algae, is clogging up his water filters.

He has to clean the filters twice a week with a pipe cleaner, turning off the water supply and leaving guests complaining of cold showers.

Dempsey says: “If they cannot get clean water to people then they are failing in what they are doing – because that is what they are meant to do.”

Council chief engineer Ulrich Glasner says it’s aware of the problem and is working hard on a solution.

It’s responsible for pumping water from Lake Wakatipu to homes and businesses but Otago Regional Council is accountable for the “health of the lakes”.

Queenstown’s council has trialled a number of filtration methods with varying levels of success.

But none of that washes with Dempsey.

Dempsey also questions the time frames for permanent solutions.

Two new water treatment plants are proposed in City Hall’s long term plan – destroying the algae before it enters the reticulation network. But even design work won’t start until April at the earliest.

The lakes and the water supply have been hit with a series of issues – from lake snot to ecoli and blue-green algae.

Council says lake snot doesn’t pose a health risk but admits it’s a nuisance for businesses.

In January last year, Sofitel Queenstown and The Rees Hotel installed expensive filtration systems to help deal with the goo.

Dempsey, who has run his Huff St B&B for 20-odd years, says the alternative is to clean them by hand.

“We’ve now got a replacement, so we can pull them out and put the other straight back in, and then clean them – and they are there for the next week.”

It isn’t a simple process and they have to shut down the entire water supply to complete the process.

Glasner, in response, says: “At the end of the day, we don’t want the algae in the water system any more than anyone else does.

“It clogs up our network and treatment plants and causes no end of issues for residents.”

He says the two councils are working together to understand the algae and treatment options.

The lake snot it produces was first spotted in Lake Wakatipu in 2016.

University of Otago freshwater scientist Dr Marc Schallenberg says not a lot is known about the Lindavia intermedia algae.

“The ecology of it, the drivers of it, which is what most people want to know; why does it produce this and how can we possibly manage it? None of that is really known at all and we haven’t had much luck in getting research funding.”

Dr Dean Olsen, resource science boss with ORC, says lake snot usually peaks this time of year, “most likely due to warmer water temperatures and higher levels of sunlight”.

ORC didn’t respond to questions as to what it’s doing to fix the algae problem. It is, however, taking drastic action to keep another weed out of Lake Wakatipu – spending $142,000 to remove dead willow trees which help lagarosiphon grow.

Council pumps about 20 million litres of water a day from the lake. It’s sent to a number of reservoirs and while it isn’t filtered, chlorine is added and it gets UV (ultraviolet) treatment.