Why Lakes are Like Black Holes

(and what we can do about it)  -  Sidney Eschenbach       

Lake atitlanPDF - version ESPANOL (traducido por Maximo)
WORD - version ESPANOL (traducido por Maximo)
PDF - More data/information (made available by AMSCLAE in May-2011, in Spanish)

Eutrophication and Nutrient Balance
Eutrophication is the term used to describe one of the later stages in the natural geomorphic transformation of a lake into a swamp. To understand the process, it’s convenient to think of a lake as a black hole… a place where everything goes in but virtually nothing comes out. Due to generally positive nutrient balances, virtually every lake is simply a swamp in progress, as they receive enough silt (that doesn’t come out) and nutrients (that don’t come out) to fill and support plant and animal life of many types… and eventually turn into swamps. Therefore, the time-line of any lake can be read in its total nutrient balance.
Our problem here in Guatemala, indeed man’s general problem around the globe, is that for economic reasons we generally want to stop these natural processes of evolutionary change… while in fact our behavior speeds them up. This too is natural, because we live with a much shorter time horizon than does the planet and we have a great deal of constructed infrastructure that is dependent upon maintaining the natural status quo. However, as noted, we inevitably accelerate the very maturation processes we don’t want by inducing the principal causes of eutrophication, nutrient enrichment and siltation.
To understand what a problem this is on even the smallest scale, a review of the problems caused by cyanobacteria for aquarium owners is sobering. In the end, there is only one thing that can be done to stop the problem..  
and that is to repeatedly change the water in the aquarium. However, in large bodies of water that solution is obviously not available, and it is a truly ‘inconvenient truth’ that once cyanobacteria establish themselves they have rarely been controlled and never eliminated… and the cause is invariably nutrient balance.
Specifically, what drives continued algae blooms is a natural phenomena known as ‘internal cycling’, the problem created by the ‘black hole’ physics of limnology: once something enters a relatively quiescent body of water, it never leaves. Therefore, once enough nutrients are available to support major algal growth, the natural recycling of those nutrients will be enough to sustain their continued growth even if all new nutrients are cut off. Only the reversal of the black hole phenomena, the removal of nutrients, has any hope of reversing this process. To see why and how, understanding the phenomena of ‘internal cycling’ through a brief review of the biochemistry of phosphorus is in order.
Lake Atitlan algae and bacteria spread from spaceThe Biochemistry of Phosphorus
Phosphorus is used as a fertilizer for the simple reason that it is required at nearly every stage of plant life. It is a vital component of DNA and RNA, and is also a principal part of ATP, the phosphorus compound formed during photosynthesis that provides the energy for all plant life. During the natural process of weathering, rocks (all phosphorus originates from the mineral ‘apatite’) gradually release the phosphorus as phosphate ions which are soluble in water, and the mineralized phosphate compounds break down. The phosphate compound PO4-3 is formed from this element as the ionized phosphorous bonds with oxygen.
Phosphates exist in three forms: orthophosphate, metaphosphate (or polyphosphate) and organically bound phosphate. Each compound contains phosphorous in a different chemical arrangement. These forms of phosphate occur in living and decaying plant and animal remains, as free ions or weakly bonded in aqueous systems, chemically fixed to sediments and soils, or as mineralized compounds in soil, rocks, and sediments. Orthophosphate forms are produced by natural processes, while the principal man-influenced sources include partially treated and untreated sewage and runoff from the fertilizers used in agriculture. Orthophosphate is readily available for use to the plant community, but is typically found in very low concentrations in unpolluted waters. Poly forms are used for treating boiler waters and in detergents. In water, they are transformed into orthophosphates, making them also available for plant uptake. Organic phosphates are typically estimated by testing for total phosphate. The organic phosphate is the phosphate that is bound or tied up in plant tissue, waste solids, or other organic material. After decomposition of the organic compound (usually through bacterial action), this phosphorus can be converted to orthophosphate and reenters the cycle of plant life as a food.
plankton and algaeHow the biochemistry drives eutrophication
As stated above, due to the low amounts of total P normally found in nature (usually around 0.01 to .5% in soil) and given normal aerobic conditions, the natural cycles that slowly fill and enrich lakes is measured in geologic time. If, however, for any reason the levels of nutrients are increased and the nutrient balance becomes excessively positive, plankton and algae of many kinds begin to grow more rapidly than normal. This ‘excessive’ growth also creates ‘excessive’ die off of the plants and algae, as sunlight is blocked at lower levels. In that dead organic material bacteria then go to work consuming the dead plant matter. However, in this work they consume the oxygen, release more nitrogen and phosphorus, and thereby start the process known as "nutrient recycling” or “internal cycling" of existing nutrients. Some of the phosphate may be precipitated as iron phosphate and stored in the sediment where it can then be released if anoxic conditions develop. This is virtually identical to the process that enriches forest floors, as organic material is recycled after plant death, freeing the phosphorus to be taken up again by other plants present in the forest. Unfortunately, unlike the positive nature of nutrient recycling that takes place on land, in aquatic environments the internal cycling of the dead cyanobacteria can seriously and continuously deteriorate the water body.
That is because conditions worsen as more phosphates and nitrates are added to the water, all of the oxygen gets used up by bacterial action as they consume and decompose all of the waste from the dead plants… and anaerobic conditions ensue. Under these conditions, not only is all non-plant (zooplankton and fish) aquatic life threatened or eliminated in growing ‘dead zones’, but different bacteria continue to carry on decomposition reactions with drastically different products. The carbon is now converted to methane gas instead of carbon dioxide, and sulfur is converted to hydrogen sulfide gas. Some of the phosphorus released from the organic molecules is precipitated as iron phosphate. However, unlike the aerobic conditions, under anaerobic conditions the iron phosphate that precipitates in the sediments can be released from the sediments… only to make the phosphate bioavailable once again! This is the last step in the ‘lake to swamp’ growth and decay cycle. The pond, stream, or lake then gradually fills with partially decomposed plant materials and becomes, over geologic time frames, a swamp. This is the natural process. The problem is that, through mans actions, this otherwise natural process gets significantly accelerated, and the human economic infrastructures that depended upon a particular state of nature can no longer exist as one state of nature changes and another emerges.
Put simply, due to the laws of growth, decay and gravity, the ‘biochemistry of a black hole’, even if no new nutrients are introduced into the water body, eutrophication cannot and will not be halted simply because of internal phosphorus cycling: the plant food never leaves. For that reality to change, the underlying biochemical balances must be reversed… and that can only be through the removal of the nutrients from the black hole.
How to Escape the Black Hole
Fundamentally, there are only two ways to reverse the process and reduce nutrients; chemical intervention or physical removal. Chemical removal involves treating the water with some compound, usually copper sulfide, alum or lanthanum, or any other products that precipitate or sequester the ionized orthophosphates. This involves very high costs, further environmental risks, and, at best, problematic results. For example, one of the best treatments is made by an Australian company that produces a product called “Phoslock”, a compound that removes PO4 at a ratio of 100:1 by weight. That is, for every 100 kilos of Phoslock applied, approximately 1 kg of PO4 is removed. Phoslock costs approximately $2,500 per ton, which means that, including transportation and application costs, it would cost approximately $3,000 for every kilo of PO4 removed.
 Photo Courtesy of Dennis Lynch         
The lake's health solution
A second method of phosphorus removal is also available, and that involves the physical removal of the plant as a natural reservoir and concentrator of phosphorus. In the specific species that threatens Lake Atitlan, total phosphorus is slightly less than 1% by dry weight. Thus, like the Phoslock, with the removal of every 100 kg. of dry algae along comes 1 kilo of phosphorus…. with the added benefit that it doesn’t cost $3,000 per kilo to remove.
There is also a third, theoretical and very cheap method to strike at the motor of internal recycling, and that is by ‘corralling’ the blooms and holding them inside of floating barriers in the middle of the lake until they die. At that point, the theory is that they would slowly fall to the very bottom of the lake, some 1,000 feet down, taking them out of the epilemnic waters used by the Lyngbya and removing the phosphorus contained within their structures from the bacteria driven cycle that would release them again for reuse as PO4. At a very minimum, this would at least achieve a few goals: first, it would be ‘doable’, as it is both technically and economically within the abilities of the nation. Second, even if the Lyngbya species that we have in the lake is found to use the hypolimnion at some point of its life-cycle, the ultimate re-release of the PO4 back into the deep lake waters would represent an amount so insignificant that it would cease to be a ‘tipping point’ factor driving the Lyngbya life cycle.
Therefore, if policies were effected that would limit the introduction of new phosphorus into the lake while at the same time reducing through physical removal or chemical precipitation the total amount of orthophosphate (remember, that’s the dilute phosphate) available to the cyanobacteria, it should be theoretically possible to eliminate the engine of internal phosphorus recycling that keeps the levels of phosphorus high enough to sustain the bacteria.
What is the scale of the problem?
In the first table below is much of the data needed in order to calculate what the nutrient balance is and was, and serves as the basis for calculations regarding the scale of the remedial actions needed in order to return to a cyanobacterial status quo ante:

Morphometric data
With the above data one can calculate nutrient balances, past and present, and get an idea of what must be done in order to eliminate or significantly reduce the cyanobacterial infestation at the lake. The following table shows the results of those calculations and shows the marked difference between what the situation probably was prior to 1960, and what it is today. It must be noted that neither of these two tables take into account the major contribution municipal septic outfalls make to the lakes nutrient balances. That will be addressed next.
Time period data sheet
What this table (above) shows is that the current nutrient balance, even excluding municipal septic inflows is highly unfavorable, given that the lake increases its accumulated total of PO4 by nearly 50,000 kg of PO4 every year. What this means in milligrams per liter can be seen in the following box. Here (below), annual and total post-Stan dilute totals are shown, both with and without the additional septic loads introduced by the municipalities around the lake:
Annual net river and aquifer PO4 impact on epilimnic waters
(Note: Because PO4 is dissolved, it should only be counted as adding to the epilimnion. If there is no or little mixing, it would have no independent quality that would carry it into the hypolimnion.)

The total increase of nearly .03 mg/lt of additional PO4 in the lake since Hurricane Stan can arguably be considered the smoking gun of eutrophication, and as there was no significant amount of cyanobacteria in the lake prior to 2005, it could also be used as the goal for total removal, the amount needed to be taken out of the lake in order to halt the eutrophication process and reverse the black hole bio-chemistry.
What that translates into when the additional loads produced by municipal septic systems are added in:
Total post-Stan river and Aquifer Net flows data sheet
This is by any standard a huge amount of phosphorus, all of it added in the past four and one-half years. In order to extract it by any of the methods described above, would mean the combined application of (something like) Phoslock and the removal of bio-mass totaling approximately 35,000 tons between them.
That is the scale of the problem.
Obviously, even at a ratio of 3:1 (Phoslock:removal), we’re looking at costs ranging as high as Q800,000,000.00… which explains why victory is so rare in the eutrophication wars. No one said that exiting a black hole would be easy.
Given the data, the following actions need to be taken:
  • First, to stop the situation from worsening:
    1. The immediate halting of all municipal effluents from entering the Lake.
    2. The immediate prohibition of the use of all phosphate based soaps in the lake basin.
    3. The immediate implementation of mandatory policies promoting soil protection and fertilizer reduction throughout the watershed.
  • Second, to begin to reverse the process:
    1. Implement a detailed study of the limnology of the lake, and the arrival at a definite answer to the questions surrounding the lake hydrology.
      • Specifically, the details of its relative thermic stability.
    2. A detailed study of the Lyngbya life-cycle.
      • Specifically, its use of and ability to use the hypolimnion if needed.
    3. The preparation of plans to physically remove the next and all subsequent algal blooms
      • Based upon the results of the above studies, design the cheapest and best system to remove the bio-mass from the lake.
      • Coordinate with the local authorities to implement the above.

While the task is certainly daunting, it is not by any means impossible.

However, with every month that passes another 6,500 kg of PO4 are added to the lake… another 6,500 kg. of PO4 that then must be removed in order to stop and reverse the process. Given that the continued wellbeing of nearly 200,000 people depends upon the continued health of the lake and the lake basin, doing anything less than the above amounts to criminal negligence.

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Comments (54)
  • Marco  - interesting

    hope i have the time tomorrow to look up the rest of the words on google. very good article. like i said, will have to get back to it tomorrow again.

  • Diana Celeste

    A very complete article. Thank you
    Sydney! I hope that it is translated and presented to the government and scientific comunities.

    Imagine that we might start to 'capture' the cyanobacteria. I know the residents of Santa Cruz did that during the last bloom.

  • Soaring Bear  - magnificant analysis

    Magnificent and original analysis! I'd be happy to sit with you to see if this can be refined any more.

    A way to make a rough translation available is to add a link in the form of:

    so for this page would be:


  • Carlita  - ecological perspective

    As an ecologist, it is great to see someone write a good article on the ecology of lakes and specifically how this relates to Lago Atitlan. Anyone, ecologist or not has to study in depth the specific ecology of lake atitlan before applying any solution. As one treatment for one lake may be different for a treatment of another lake, due to climate, topography, depth, size, salinity, temperature, organisms, lake organisms, cycle of cold and warm water- rises and falls, other inlets outlets, soil types, plant life, animal life, social ecology of human anthropogenic activities, agriculture around the lake, and this does not have to be costly if volunteers are available to help.

    So it is compulsory when preparing for a solution to the pollution problem to do a thorough ecological study of the lake ecology.

    Then introducing an ecological method to clean the algae from the lake that (preferably) does not involve chemicals would be the best option and in order to do this safely it would be suitable to partition off a large area of the lake and introduce the method of cleaning the "experimental area", there to monitor progress and then if the test cleaning in the partitioned area of the lake has been a success then ecologists can apply the technique to the whole lake.

    Im quite impressed! Well done!

    p.s there are also organic options to consider but really again something to mull over if viable with all the points to consider above- cynobacteria eating fish

  • eyebox  - Timely analysis

    Thank you for fighting the good fight. An uphill battle, but what battle isn't?

  • armand  - Some good news

    Regarding these points

    1. The immediate halting of all municipal effluents from entering the Lake.

    The government pass a new "acuerdo gubernativo" 51-2010 giving 18 months to the villages to comply with the requirements of the law of residual waters

    2. The immediate prohibition of the use of all phosphate based soaps in the lake basin.
    I invite all the parts interested to join the Environmental Justice Table that Calas is helping to put together where a specific law for this matter could be put together.
    And also don't forget to check on the soaps when you buy them... A list of phosphate free and ecological soap available in Guatemala would be nice to have on the atitlancommunity site

    3. The immediate implementation of mandatory policies promoting soil protection and fertilizer reduction throughout the watershed.
    That's also part of the government program. But these policies need money and time.

  • Alberto Rivera

    Any Henchel soap is good. They are sold everywhere... you can certainly find them in Despensa Familiar

  • armand  - Where the numbers come from?

    Interesting all these numbers but where are they coming from?
    So if I understand the proposal we have to wait for the cianobacteria to bloom and hand pick up when it is "correlated" in the middle of the Lake?
    Since to need further study to see how to do it...
    Keep the reflexion moving some good will come out of it...

  • Duncan  - Phosphate free soap

    Yesterday Sid and I spent some time trying to read the small print (no small feat) on detergent packages in La Dispensa where we found a couple of Phosphate free options. All were manufactured by the German company Henkel.

    I bought a bag of Rendidor. Look for a green "Sin Fosfatos" logo on the upper right.


  • Jessica Rochmann  - Article and soaps

    Congratulations on a very complete article.
    Could you please provide the source of your data.

    I will include it in our website.
    I recommend all interested to visit


    we have a section on Atitlán where we have included opinions, documents and will soon include organizations and what is being done.

    For phosphate free detergents, Henkel has powder detergents and also in Guatemala City, Orgánica in zone 10 (near Oakland) and Carretera El Salvador, has a variety of options in gel form and cleaners.

  • Alberto Rivera

    As I mentioned it to you a few days ago, this data does not take into consideration the 400 tons of phosphate carried by the 105.000 tons of soil washed into the lake for 2004 reported by IARNA in the recent "Perfil Ambiental de Guatemala 2008-2009".

    If we take that in consideration, our main problem is elsewhere.

  • MAXIMO WILHELM  - That's right Alberto . . .

    Hi, am Max. . .
    I agree with you, the records are not providing that; What we might need at first is: Get ahold of someone who can study the slurries comming of the mountain. I have a relative who might be able to work on that, he studied and specialized on "Aguas Negras." Sanitation Ingeneering and as far as I know, he's good. That is my best option to offer, his name is Ramiro Wilhelm Cohen. There might be better ideas somewhere around, if you guys have a better sugestion, am here to listen too!
    Nothing else so say by now except thank you for your precious time and attention.


    In addition, if there was a smart way to canalize the surries by DIGGED CANALS in a diagonal structure to big tanks or so with filters, we coud use that as fertilizers somewhere else needed, as dry grounds and/or so. Thats a sugestion, SO WE CAN STOP THE ACCELERATION OF THE ALGEAES STOP UNDER WATER... and the the CyanoBacteria dies in a mixed plan off the 3 strateties posted. Thats only another suggestion.

  • Dennis Lynch  - Good Article

    thank you for this article. My photo of the ladies you used from the website http://www.lakeatitlanhealth.com says a lot. The lake is going to need all the help it can get.

  • Marco  - Hi Dennis

    Hi Dennis, you are more then welcome to take the article to lakeatitlanhealth.com (the most informative site) if it serves your visitors. Thank you for positively reacting to us using the picture you took, grabbed it from the internet and would have contacted you if i'd know it was yours. Would love to have your email, thanks.

  • Dennis Lynch  - Hi Marco

    Thanks for the compliment on my site and the link. I will have some updates including links to this article up on wwww.lakeatitlanhealth.com no later than Monday. Keep up the great work!

  • Soaring Bear  - cyano-Toxin vs cyano-Bacteria

    cyanobacteria monitoring is useful, however there also needs to be monitoring of the cyanotoxins, which I don't believe can be done by satellite.

  • Cyan-Bacteria or Cyanobacteria  - Cyan-Bacteria or Cyanobacteria . . .

    hey there, what I got here is what Greg responded to me, as I asked some questions, although complete answers, here is an answer that might be helful to you to understand better what they do: "I have had extensive conversations and his company is quite excited about getting involved, saying he would slash his fees in half just to help out. His company web site is www.bluewatersatellite.com SAID GREG.

  • Soaring Bear  - science journal link

    Here is the science journal link underlying those news stories. Note that the satellite detection is of phycocyanin, a chlorophyll with obvious color detection and not of the several possible cyanotoxins which are more difficult to detect.



    I have sent the question to Milt Bakers at U.S. I have asked him if he can track it down, I'll keep you updated. I will be tomorrow in the EcoFestival in Panajahchel reason of the global day. Take care.


    This is what Mr. Milt Baker has responded:
    Respectable Maximo Wilhelm-

    The articles you mention below are from the Chief Technology Officer of our company, Dr. Robert K. Vincent. They describe what we do at Blue Water Satellite. If you need more information please contact me. I have attached the original of the paper mentioned below.
    Best regards,
    Milt Baker

  • Soaring Bear  - algae ethanol

    there's some big money going into researching algae ethanol:


  • MAXIMO WILHELM  - Greg Anthony Szymanski

    Greg Anthony Szymanski, who is one in charge of Lake Atitlan's outside of Guatemala, has sent an message to me so that I can spread it out. It says as follows:
    "I spoke with Margaret Dix who is communication with both Eco Tek and Blue Water. I am enclosing a TV News video and article on Blue Water, which should be forwarded to people with money who can help. For example, traditional monitoring cost about $1500 an acre, but Blue Water can do it for $1 an acre and do it more efficiently. Please look at this story about the company."

    "The new web site will be online Sunday evening and I will send you a link."


    "Let's begin discussing the cost for getting each page on the website properly translated into Spanish. Also, I am looking for someone to donate a small shop for the Save Lake atitlan Mission...I want to put a Second Hand Shop there. I will explain later."


    INTERESTED IN MORE INFO? e-mail to me @ xocomil@live.com :roll:

  • Marco

    post the link when it is up, we are all curious, thanks


    This is the website Greg has been so kind to release in name of Late Atitlan: -- :roll:

  • Dennis Lynch  - Save Lake Atitlan

    Anyone considering giving money to the above website might be interested in reading Mr. Szymanski's blog. Here's some of the past issues from the internet wayback machine.

  • admin  - agree

    checked it out and thanks for the info. had some conversations with him and my opinion i expressed was that i could not see how his mission was positive for the indigenous people, since it does scare tourist a bit with his statements which are not always curate in his articles.

    i asked him, but he did not answer, i got the imprssion he has never been to lake atitlan, i was just curious to his connection to the lake.

    And many people have expressed interest as to how the funds will be handled that are being received through the site. It would help confidence for your mission if you could reply to that question Greg?

  • Admin  - questions

    emailed Greg, asked him some questions requesting he would answer them publicly, regarding to how donations are being managed, concrete plans on what to do with them and some other things. Greg?

  • Dennis Lynch  - Unauthorized use of my photos

    The website above also has photos stolen form http://www.lakeatitlanhealth.com
    He contacted me and asked if I would like to help him, I have not replied, but it shows he knew who to ask permission for photo use. If I was king of the north pole I wouldn't give this guy an icecube!

  • Dennis Lynch  - I Don't mind sharing my photos if...

    If you ask first I will gladly share my photos with sites/people/institutions that are non-denominational and non-profit trying to inform people based on a scientific and cultural perspective.(and that fit any other arbitrary guidelines I may randomly decide)

  • Greg  - answers

    501(c)(3) non profit cert.:

    ID number: 20101130317
    Name: Save Lake Atitlan
    Jurisdiction: Colorado

    Everyone want to know exactly what will happen with the donations on received through your site, what are your plans, who has control over them? How is this all managed?

    The above is the duly filed non profit, this was filed Mar 3, for this specific purpose at atitlan...

    Donations will go directly to the people, either in food, necessities or money to purchase items...

    Presently, I have collected $10...all monies go directly into a paypal account.., My reason for coming to Atitlan was to be able to distribute any help...If you or Dennis what to oversee the money that is fine with me as I feel you are trustworthy and if you trust dennis, that is fine...We can open a local account so the people get the money directly either in goods, services or direct donations....I would be more than happy to share this with anyone. I will make it clear on my next Saturday radio show...at the audio archives radio page...At present, like I said one donations for $10...

    I also plan to list a page with all donors which corresponds to the money collected...However, some people want it anonymous so that will be respected....

    At present, I have spent out of my own pocket over $1,000 for web site...I plan to spend another 800 to Maximo for translations.

    My connections with Atitlan are as follows:

    My wife and I had originally become aware of Lake Atitlan about 7months ago. We had put our house in New Mexico up for trade at a web site www.goswap.org, listing 7025. It is still there. There was also a hotel listed for trade from Lake Atitlan and we began talking to the owners. Finally, when things got serious, my wife recently visited. We were very serious about the trade but out of nowhere the owners of the hotel changed their minds without reason and after we spent considerable time and effort researching the possibility of living there. They were supposed to reciprocate by looking at our house, but never did. We were very upset and felt they led us on. We would have visited if we felt they were not going to visit us.

    I, being a journalist and radio broadcaster, decided to get involved researching the lake and the conditions of the water came up. To make a long story short, the whole project evolved and we decided to move their anyway even though the possibility of the hotel fell through. I became first involved personally but then it has evolved to this project.

    Further, I was planning to bring my fishing boat down the coast in November, as we discussed. I think you can see I am not a poor man and I am taking this on as a humanitarian gesture. I have gone into detail for you, as someone who has tried to help.

    If anyone from Atitlan wants to personally talk with me, they can at anytime. Further, I am willing to have any trusted party locally distribute any funds collected and help oversea this...At present, we have $10..

    Greg Szymanski, JD

  • Admin  - information

    Dennis from the comments above provided me with a link on Greg Szymanski's old articles, archived on his site. I checked some of the ones from 2006 and found he far too much concentrated on getting money out of you, not by contributing anything, exactly the opposite in my opinion. Smells like scam allover.

    Here's the link:http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.arcticbeacon.com


    The Satellite service provided by Blue Waters Satellite is in discussion at the Gobernment of Guatemala at these days. I have provided the formal proposal to them, they are reviewing it and we'll see if that is going to be what they will do, YOU GUYS, TAKE A GUESS IN HOW MUCH THAT WILL COST PER YEAR AND THE 2 TIMES ANALYSIS A MONTH DURING A 12 MONTHS LAPSE OF TIME!!! HOW MUCH DO YOU GUESS THAT WILL COSE PER FULL YEAR AND PROVIDING ALL THE DATA NEEDED OF THE STUDIES??? HOW MUCH D YOU THINK I GOT IT FOR???
    Any concerns or questions of the same, e-mail to me at xocomil@live.cm

  • marco  - hey

    no idea, did you get an special offer from the company?


    011 + (502)5541-0352

    P.D. Originally the estimated amount for the physical sampling on all over the lake was $ 3, 500, 000 of US DOLLARS, then Milt (Blue Water Satellite) offered $. 1.00 per Acre, NOW THAT I TALKED TO HIM IN DEPTH OF THE SAME CONCERN, AND WITH THE HELP OF GREG ANTHONY SZYMANSKI (the person criticized above) THE DEAL IS BEING A VERY POSSIBLE OPTION. I WILL LET YOU KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WHEN THE ADVANCES SHOW, TAKE CARE!!!

  • bear

    640 acres/sq mi x 50 sq mi = 32,000 acres so works out to around 10 acres/dollar. I can't tell from the info provided if that's per scan or per year?

    Remember the limits, satellite just detects algae density and not what specie is blooming.


    The size, I have read is about 300 000 squared acres, I believe it was $. 1.00 per squared acre though. Might be my mistake, still that is good. Reason that the monitoring will take place on or about twice a month, each 16 days for a full YEAR, that is what Milt Bakers had already confirmed to me through the phone. I am still talking with both parties, I'll let you know of any advance. ""There is another option of monitoring Lake Atitlan, there is another source (company) which does the same, althogh Milt got surprised, reason that it's not NASA, as he states. I'll let you know what's going on.
    TAKE CARE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Peter S.  - Solutions

    Excellent article.

    You suggest two possible solutions: chemical intervention or physical removal.
    What do you think about "scavenger 2000", a de-pollution vessel?, it use ozone and ultra violet light.

  • Bear

    ozone or UV are excellent for small scale home water sterilization but are not technologies that typically handle the volume of town sewage and river floodwaters. Also, sterilization has no effect on the nutrients with contribute to algae bloom.

  • Peter S.  - Scavenger 2000

    A scavenger vessel is working in the Miami River.


    I would advice to check out on this product named Prill, check it out on the net, I translated an article in concern of that product, the price, I do not know the price, but it seems to be a really really good product to use, take care.
    Maximo F. Wilhelm

  • Peter s.  - Harvesting cianobacteria

    Yes you're right.

    I understand that the scavenger is not a harvesting boat is a de-contamination or de-pollution boat.

  • MÁXIMO F WILHELM  - Blue Waters Satelite is another option

    Blue Waters Satellite is another option, they assure they can provide vital data twice a month for the low cost price of 19, 000 per year to do the physical sampling and of tracking down cyanobacteria all throughout the Lake Atitlan. They turn in written reports twice a month and guarantee the results. Prill is a liquid which eliminates Cyanobacteria in full, toxic, and the rest. Eko=Tek, I think you guys know about that already, still, if you have questions, let me know, k_ bye.

  • Rob  - Floating Treatment wetlands

    We are ready to help out with our floating treatment wetlands. I am still looking at all the information out there and reading the articles but I think we may have one tool to help eliminate excess nutrients and the cyanobacteria from the lake. And we can do it using natural processes.

  • Marco  - How can you accomplish this

    Hi Rob, thank you for your comment, sounds super interesting. What are you investigating and do you (or others) have any financial resources?

    kind regards, marco

  • Anonymous

    Hello, I have not been to Lago Atitlan, but am a mechanical engineer, with large projects.. including sewage treatment.

    I think its going to take a massive effort at the cost of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to even come close to resolving the problem.

    Sewage treatment for all settlements, elimination of phosphate fertilizers and soaps

    Square miles of floating wetlands to absorb the existing self generating phosphate loads, and harvesting the blooms.

    That is not likely to happen unless the area is developed unfortunately... there may not be sufficient economic interest to develop it to that degree, given the magnitude of the problem.

    Once developed, and with no outflow from the lake another set of problems arises with ever more efficient water treatment required.

    I think its all possible, but not at all likely in context with the economics of the region, or with preservation of the existing culture and charisma.


    Meantime, as lake silts up, and the porosity of the lake bottom clogs with dead organic material, the water level will keep rising.

    When it rises high enough to afford an outfall of water, then over the next 50 or 100 years the addition of a rain water purge will reduce the nutrient load in the lake...

    If mankind manages to completely kill itself off over that time span and beyond... the lake will recover.

    I think these things are a repeating pattern.

    It is sad to see such a world renown, beautiful last refuge going this way... but thats the path it is on. IMO


    Another long shot, and risky option might be a genetically engineered organism that eats the algae.... no telling what the negative unforseen ramifications of that might be.



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