Puerto Rican oysters to clean polluted lagoon

This September 2013 video is called EPA Region 2 Administrator visits the Oyster Project of the Condado Lagoon.

From Caribbean Business:

Oysters deployed to clean PR lagoon

By CB Online Staff

Researchers in Puerto Rico are seeding the Condado Lagoon with native oysters in a pilot project aimed at improving the quality of water.

Some four dozen baskets each packed with roughly 100 live oysters were “planted” in two feet of water at three strategic spots in the lagoon on Thursday as the San Juan Bay Estuary Program research effort got under way.

The yearlong experiment in the heart of the San Juan tourism district is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, but similar projects in the Gulf of Mexico and off New York have shown that oysters are effective in cleaning pollutants and improving water clarity.

“This works. Oysters are biological filters and the results have been positive,” said Jorge Bauzá, an oceanographer who is heading the Condado Lagoon project with other researchers and volunteers.

He noted that the Army Corps of Engineers calls for the seeding of oyster colonies during the construction of piers or other maritime infrastructure.

“They understand that this creates habitats and improves water quality,” Bauzá said.

The colonies of mangrove oysters planted on Thursday are in three spots with 16 baskets each. The baskets are tagged to let people know the oysters part of and experiment are not to be harvested in a lagoon that is popular with swimmers and paddlers.

“These oysters can filter 30 or 40 gallons of water per day,” Bauzá said.

The sites were picked for their proximity to sewer drains that carry contaminants. Researchers will compare water quality over time at the oysters beds and in areas without oysters. Monthly readings will gauge turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH and chlorophyll levels.

“Our hypothesis is that the water quality at the oyster beds will improve as they filter water 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Baúza said.

The long-term plan is to use the results to garner government support for establishing oyster colonies in other coastal areas around the island.

The project is backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and permitted by the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources, the Environmental Quality Board and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“This project is part of our broader citizen scientists platform in which people become active participants in restoration instead of just observers,” said San Juan Bay Estuary Program Executive Director Javier Laureano. “They convert from spectators into agents of change.”


12 thoughts on “Puerto Rican oysters to clean polluted lagoon

  1. I hope this succeeds. There’s real potential for bioremediation using molluscs, especially when they’re native molluscs to the area being cleaned. As in this example.

    This is an experimental study but it begs the question: what’s to be done with the molluscs after they’ve cleaned the water? I’m thinking that the contaminants will include some useful resources, such as heavy metals, which could be recycled.


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