What is Phoslock? City of Austin uses new method to rid Lady Bird Lake of toxic algae

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Watershed Protection put into action this week a pilot program aimed at decreasing the amount of toxic algae in Lady Bird Lake.

Specifically, the department is looking to target 20 acres of the lake around Red Bud Isle. Crews used Phoslock to treat the area starting Monday.

Phoslock binds phosphorus, cutting off toxic algae’s supply for a key nutrient. Phoslock is safe for humans and wildlife, the city said.

How Phoslock works to treat waterways for toxic algae (Watershed Protection Department Photo)
How Phoslock works to treat waterways for toxic algae (Watershed Protection Department Photo)

A second and third treatment are planned for July and August. Each treatment takes about four days. It’s about a $300,000 cost total for materials, lab testing, treatments and analyses, according to the city.

For the time being, Watershed Protection is asking boaters to stay away from Red Bud Isle during treatment periods.

The department doesn’t know how effective the treatments will be yet. It is still cautioning Red Bud Isle visitors to not let their dogs touch or eat the algae. Results won’t be available until several weeks after the first treatment.

  • Applying Phoslock to Lady Bird Lake near Red Bud as part of the Harmful Algae Pilot Program (Watershed Protection Department Photo)
  • Applying Phoslock to Lady Bird Lake near Red Bud as part of the Harmful Algae Pilot Program (Watershed Protection Department Photo)
  • Applying Phoslock to Lady Bird Lake near Red Bud as part of the Harmful Algae Pilot Program (Watershed Protection Department Photo)

Austin City Council approved the pilot during a June 10 meeting. If the pilot program for Phoslock treatments is successful, the program could be extended four years to allow treatment for other parts of Lady Bird Lake.

In addition to the Phoslock treatments, Watershed Protection plans to install 50 biochar units near Red Bud Isle. The department said biochar is “similar to a Brita filter.”

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