China tackles algae in Olympic venue

More than 10,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians have been sent in to clear up a giant algal bloom threatening this summer's Olympic sailing events.

The algae, first spotted in late May, has choked large stretches of coast around the Eastern city of Qingdao, according to local media.

Workers are now heading out to sea every day to collect thousands of tonnes of algae around the city, which will host the Olympic sailing events from August 2 to 23.

The source of at least some of the algae is believed to be the Yellow Sea, south of Qingdao, which is heavily affected by industrial pollution, particularly phosphorous and nitrogen.

Algal blooms on the scale seen at the sailing venue are often caused by an excess of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen entering the water system.

However, Wang Shulian, deputy director of the Qingdao Oceanic and Fishery Department, told state-owned media: “The algae is of various types. It will bloom if the temperature and salinity are right.”

Local reports also claimed the algae is not harmful as it absorbs carbon dioxide and cleans the water.

According to local media, the bright green algae, enteromorpha prolifera, had affected 13,000 square kilometres of coast by June 29 but the clean-up operation had reduced that to less than 50 square kilometres by July 2.

Yuan Zhiping, assistant to the chairman of the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Committee, told the Xinhua News Agency: “We have stressed to all those devoted to this campaign that priority should be given to the Olympic venue and we expect to eliminate all these algae before July 15.”

After the algal bloom was first detected in May, the Shandong Provincial Science and Technology Department earmarked 2m yuan to monitor it.

The State Oceanic Administration’s North China Sea branch, which is in charge of water quality monitoring for the Olympic venue, said on July 2 that tests showed the water quality was fit for sailing competitions.

Kate Martin

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