Living Rafts Cleanse Water at McConnell Springs

Jun 25, 2013

A pair of vegetation rafts afloat at McConnell Springs near downtown Lexington.
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Fertilizers are essential to modern horticulture, but they can also promote the spread of pond scum.  Most often, pond scum feasts on nitrogen and phosphorus washed in from neighboring fields.   Hoping to protect the quality of Lexington’s McConnell Springs Pond, the Friends of Wolf Run loaded rafts with plants.  Project Coordinator Ken Cooke hopes the plants will consume unwanted fertilizers.

“You have floating rafts of native plants that are sort of wetland plants that are placed out on the pond and through their roots in the plants, they uptake water, nutrients, and bacteria grows on the roots and digest pollutants and they shade the pond preventing sunlight from reaching where algae grow,” said Cooke.

Cooke says the 64-square rafts are held together by 30 species of plants and mesh.

“Imagine a mesh, if you will, of either wire or plastic mesh like coconut core which is sort of a coconut fiber or even some mulch or some other material that provide the plant a place to grow.  But, really the plants’ roots need to go down into the water, into the pond, and they pull the moisture and the nutrients right out of the pond water,” added Cooke.

Cooke believes this is the first time such measures have been undertaken Lexington.  They’ll remain in place throughout the summer, and then the rafts will be recovered this fall.