Bio-Dredging Scores for Aesthetics and the Environment

In managing the 800 and some acres that comprise seven municipal golf courses, the Park Authority is committed to providing customers with a challenging game in a beautiful setting.
     Simultaneously, the agency strives to protect and enhance enviromental values and diversity of natural habitats to ensure that these resources will be available to both present and future generations.
     A new biological dredging program, piloted last year at Twin Lakes and expanding to other park courses this season, advances that dual mission.
    Ask golfers why they choose their game over other sports and most will mention the appeal of being outdoors in open spaces and gorgeously green places. Golf is about aesthetics, and there’s nothing aesthetically pleasing about a water hazard blanketed with slime. So the integrity of ponds must be maintained.
    Traditionally, that has meant regular mechanical dredging. It’s an expensive solution, given the cost of contracting of the equipment and hauling away the dredged material. Also, the heavy machinery disturbs the ground around the pond, and when the big crane brings up the dredge, it also removes organic matter beneficial to the pond’s health. Plus, the man-made ponds are lined with compacted clay to hold the water and a crane can damage that barrier.
     Looking for a better alternative, Twin Lakes superintendent Scott Hamm, introduced catfish, crayfish and koi to control the algae. That helped some but not enough. The larger bodies of water on the Lakes Course needed no additional intervention but the smaller ponds on the Oaks Course lack the circulation to hold the algae growth in check.
     Enter Dave Cutlip with DSC Aquatic Solutions, Inc. in Purcelville.
     His patented biological dredging formula “digests” the pond muck layer of decomposing leaf litter, grass, fowl and aquatic animal wastes and other organics. The naturally occurring bacteria injected into the water also consume any petroleum hydrocarbons, fats, oils, or grease.

     Cutlip, an aquatic environmental engineer, founded Aquatic Solutions in 1990 to specialize in groundwater remediation and clean up of chemical spills. Initially, he operated in what was standard fashion, pumping water through filters to remove contaminants and returning the purified water to the lake, pond or stream. Then in 1994, a friend asked for help with an algae-clogged two-acre pond, so Cutlip experimented with bacterial remediation

This article was featured in the Summer 2004 edition of Par For The Course, and the Fall 2004 edition of Parktakes.

“I duplicate exactly what nature does,” Cutlip explained. “Nothing more, nothing less. These are naturally occurring bacteria that are already in the water."
and hit on a mix of bacteria that eliminated the algae and duckweed problems almost overnight, leaving clear water in its wake. He tried the same approach on the Cleveland Zoo’s five-acre lake that was being strangled by eight feet of muck built up in its 12-foot depth. After a month and a half of bacterial dredging, the muck layer was down to two feet.
     “I duplicate exactly what nature does,” Cutlip explained. “Nothing more, nothing less. These are naturally occurring bacteria that are already in the water. I just add an extra dose to shock and purge. Once the muck is eaten and their food source is reduced, the bacteria go back down to normal numbers, leaving the pond in balance. The bacteria don’t hurt fish or plant life with one exception— they kill mosquito larvae, which helps keep that insect population under control.”
     “Before” and “after” pictures tell the story. Prior to biological dredging, ponds on the Oaks Course looked like big puddles of slime covered with a layer of algae in alternating shades of green, gray and brown. Post-dredging, the water is sparkling clear.
“The ponds don’t just look healthier—they are healthier,” said Hamm. “This biological cleaning controls algae and duckweed increases water clarity and ups the oxygen levels that are critical for fish and plant life. It’s much less labor intensive for golf course staff, and it costs about half of what we used to spend for mechanical dredging.”
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