Need help with algae.

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Need help with algae.

Postby shottheradio » Jan 23, 2007 2:26 pm

I work at Endless Caverns,and were trying to find the best method of getting rid of the green algae. does anyone know, of the safest way that this can be done with as little harm to the formation and creatures as possiable? I'm guessing without actually scrubbing the formation,it is impossible.
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Postby BrianC » Jan 23, 2007 2:47 pm

Shotteradio! First off what is the source of the algae! Is it from the lighting in the area of the water? Is it from being a stagnant pool with lighting? Before we can find a solution we need to know the source! Changing the type of light and renewing the water supply may be all that is needed. If you try to kill the algae you will inevitably also kill other stuff !
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Postby Scott McCrea » Jan 23, 2007 2:54 pm

Turn off the lights.

It grows in the glow of the lights, right? Take away it's light and it will die. They have the same problem at Lineville Caverns in NC. We have done several clean-ups trying to get rid of the algae. It's futile. It just grows back. We have used a diluted solution of water and bleach, which is not good for critters at all. They say they are going to put in some new lights that won't grow algae, but they are expensive and haven't done it yet. It's a lot cheaper to feed some lunch to crazy cavers once a year and have them run around with spray bottles and brushes for a day.

It does make it look better, temporarily. And it does harm the cave.
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Postby BrianC » Jan 23, 2007 3:07 pm

Temperature also affects its growth. Natural cave temps are generally below 56 deg. Only hardy hard shell algae will live in that temp with light. If you could cool down the water slowly it would also help and the natural habitat that should be there won't be affected! Lighting will still be an issue!
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Postby shottheradio » Jan 23, 2007 4:10 pm

The algea that i'm dealing with is created by the lighting we have in the cave. I've talked about trying differnt lighting but it's really pricy. so are you saying that scrubbing is going to be in order? and is the formation going to continue to grow?
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Postby Phil Winkler » Jan 23, 2007 4:32 pm

If water is still dripping and/or flowing on the formation it will likely continue to grow. Assuming the water is mineral laden, of course. So, cleaning the algae off should have no effect on that.
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Postby SpelunkerBoB » Jan 23, 2007 10:20 pm

Is your problem with algae, or with moss? Algae is usually ( but not always) associated with ponded water. I work at a commercial cave in Chatttanooga, and the problem there is with moss. I've never seen algae growing in the cave. Moss on the other hand seems to be problematic in most show caves. The electric lights put out enough light for the moss to gain a foothold, and it seems to grow only where the light falls, regardless of the amount of water or moisture around it. There's a large stalagmite there which is lit on one side, and just in front of the light is a smaller stalagmite. The moss grows where the light falls on the large formation, leavinga moss-free area in the shape of the shadaw of the smaller one. Both areas receive the same amout of water when the cave is wet. We have experimented with removing moss with a small hand-held steamer, using water taken from within the cave, with good results. The steam kills the moss and allows it to be scrubbed off more easily. Of course it doesn't keep it from growing back, so this is only a maintainance technique, not a pemanent solution. Bleach and other harsh chemicals have been ruled out as too potentially harmful to anything living in the cave. If anyone has any other suggestions on how to benignly solve this problem, I'd like to hear them.
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Postby Teresa » Jan 23, 2007 11:41 pm

Bleach water (water diluted sodium hypochlorite) in a spray bottle, then a second bucket of clear rinse water, and mopup with clean damp rags.

Does the job, is cheap, cleanup of dilute bleach minimizes problems to other cave life. If you have a way to haul in some big fans, and blow out the cave, that helps, as the remainin bleach water will tend to vaporize.

And put the lights on timers or sequential switches, so the formation is illuminated only when humans are looking at them. Have a guide sweep through the cave at the end of the day, making sure all lights are off.
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Postby shottheradio » Jan 24, 2007 9:22 am

SpelunkerBoB, yes it's moss i would say, and what kind of steamer do you use?
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Jan 24, 2007 9:53 am

In my own experiences (which is why I love project caving) in algae clean up they used the heavily diluted bleach solution as prescribed above. Plus making it a policy to turn off the lights as soon as the tour passes a particular area and turning on lights when they move on to the next helps curtail the algae (and moss) growth. Since these plants need light for growth. And likewise as observed heat. People unwittingly bring in spores and seedlings into the cave (we all do it anyway) and so the cycle continues but having the lights turned off behind the tour and turned on moments before the tour reaches a room/passage helps cut down on the growth.

Lehman caves in Nevada is now starting to install (via experiment) LED based lamps in the cave. Contact them for details. Yes, I realize as a national monument they are supported by tourist and tax dollars where as privately owned tourist caves are supported by the tourist dollars themselves. Still, the overhead costs of lighting can be reduced enough to eventually offset the costs of LED lighting installation.
Not to mention trying a "fund-raiser" at the cave's visitor's center with a card explaining the need for extra funds. I dunno... it's an idea but it'll sure beat having to go back every six or eight months scrubbing.
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Postby shottheradio » Jan 24, 2007 12:03 pm

I agree,..thanks to all for the advise. If you still have more,fell free to write. thanks again.
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Postby NZcaver » Jan 25, 2007 3:21 am

A couple of earlier threads to read on this subject, if you haven't already...
oh the green moldy formations
"dusting" soda straws in commercial cave
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Postby NZcaver » Jan 25, 2007 3:37 am

Ralph E. Powers wrote:Lehman caves in Nevada is now starting to install (via experiment) LED based lamps in the cave. Contact them for details. Yes, I realize as a national monument they are supported by tourist and tax dollars where as privately owned tourist caves are supported by the tourist dollars themselves. Still, the overhead costs of lighting can be reduced enough to eventually offset the costs of LED lighting installation.

Funny you should mention Lehman Caves. :grin:

I toured the cave 18 months ago, and was chatting with the NPS seasonal interpretive ranger who was our guide. He apologized in advance for the "shocking" cave lighting (pun intended). During our tour, some sections of lighting were only partially lit, and the switch in one section would not turn off again! He and I were discussing LED lighting, and he did mention the park's budget was a big limiting factor. I mentioned that if future cave lighting plans were publicized within the caving community, caver volunteers would probably offer to help with some of the labor during installation. He then steered me towards the boss ranger, and I had a chat with him too.

Unfortunately I was only passing through the area briefly, and haven't been back since. Glad to hear the LED lighting plan is going forward.
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Postby shottheradio » Jan 25, 2007 8:17 pm

We actually settled on Calcium hydrochrorite. This stuff is amazing. takes it right off. unless it's really thick you don't need to scrub it.
Now i do wonder if we should wash it off. I've read other stuff saying that we dont' need to.but i'm still not sure.
I actaully had a long talk with Ben at Lehman cave the other day. We talked about the LED lighting. And i'm pretty sure we goig to be doing that at Endless as well.
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Postby Teresa » Jan 25, 2007 9:00 pm

Run that chemical by us again, shottheradio. Calcium I understand, but what's the other stuff?

hydrochlorite sounds dangerously close to hydrochloric acid--assuming your cave is wet... If so, you do need to neutralize it, or the salamanders won't be very happy--they might get burns, actually.
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