State of Affairs

State of the News

It’s a hodge-podge of news this week on State of thew New. We’ll talk about everything from the algae in the water to a double hand transplant to New Albany’s view on the tolling issue. Join us on Friday for another edition of State of the News.

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Local News

Unusual Water Taste May Continue For Several Days

Algae blooms in the Ohio River are responsible for an unusual taste and odor in Louisville’s drinking water. And it could continue for several more days.

The blooms are caused by warm, sunny weather, and the unusual taste comes from an organic chemical the algae releases when it dies. The Louisville Water Company treats the water to remove the substance, but some customers still notice its presence.

Water Company spokesperson Kelley Dearing Smith says the chemical is harmless, and may still be noticeable through early September.

“It could continue for the next several days,” she says. “It’s really dependent upon the weather. As long as it stays dry, when we have algae spikes in the river, we’re able to attack it, but in terms of a treatment issue we may be dealing with this for the next couple of weeks.”

Smith says more than 200 customers have called to report the odd taste and smell.

For more on the chemicals the algae releases, visit The Edit.

Blog Archive Environment Blog

Powered by…Goo?

A start-up called Sapphire Energy has taken what might be the farthest reaching step yet to turn algae into the kind of fuel you could pump into your gas tank. They’ve received funding from the likes of Bill Gates and others to build a commercial-scale facility that, they say, could be churning out 10,000 barrels of their “green crude” within five years.

For several years, researchers have been trying to figure out a way to coax fuel from what most of us think of as simple, slimy goo. It contains oil that can somehow be transformed into jet fuel, diesel fuel, and even something very much like petroleum.  (See this National Renewable Energy Laboratory report on the government-funded “aquatic species” program to convert algae to biofuels, which began in the 1970s [.pdf file].)

But there are some obstacles: one is the ability to produce a barrel of the stuff for a reasonable sum. The other is that this “green crude” — as Sapphire Energy calls it — is still combusted the old fashioned way, which releases carbon dioxide into the air. The company’s Web site calls the fuel carbon-neutral, because of the CO2 used to grow the algae.

It’s certainly an example, I believe, of innovative thinking about alternative fuel sources. But it’s also a reminder that few options, if any, seem to exist that don’t carry consequences for the environment. I wonder what the next breakthrough will be…