An innovative water filtration system is being piloted at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with the goal of removing nutrients from the park’s watercourse that cause toxic blue-green algae blooms in the summer months.

The algae is dangerous for both humans and pets.

ecoWEIR, the natural filtration system, was designed by Brooklyn College professor Jennifer Cherrier and is being funded by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through a $390,000 grant. 

Prospect Park’s lake, pools, waterfalls and streams are fed by the New York City water supply which has phosphates in it to make the water safe to drink. However, those phosphates lead to excessive algae growth, which limits resources for other plant life and wildlife and is detrimental to the health of the park’s waterways.

Photo: Paul Martinka.

Certain types of the blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, produce toxins that can pose a health risk for humans and animals — causing rashes or eye irritation on contact, and more serious side effects if swallowed. The park’s dog beach has had to close a number of times due to the blooms.

Prospect Park Alliance installed ecoWEIRS at two locations in the park in 2020 near the dog beach — where city water enters the watercourse. The filtration system and its results are being monitored over the course of multiple seasons to determine if the pilot study is a success. If it is successful, the project will be replicable in parks nationwide.

Prospect Park Alliance President Sue Donoghue said the organization was grateful to New York State Parks for its support of “innovative, environmentally sustainable ways for Prospect Park Alliance to sustain our natural areas.”

“From their funding of goats to remove invasive plants in our woodland areas, to our ecoWEIR pilot program, New York State Parks has always been responsive and forward-thinking in their efforts to support this urban wonder.”

Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson said it was great to have Professor Cherrier as a partner in the program, and her expertise in the world of aquatic sciences and water resource sustainability was well known.

“The fact that she is able to also include students in her research to enhance this iconic space cherished by all in Brooklyn makes it even more special.”

The pilot will run through December 2021.

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