Temporary clean-up of Jumeirah Islands lakes begins

The developer Nakheel has moved to address illegally high levels of contamination.

Dried algae lies on the shore of one of the lakes before the clean up in Jumeirah Islands in Dubai.
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DUBAI // Developer Nakheel has taken stopgap measures to clean the lake water at the luxury Jumeirah Islands development, more than a month after it was found to contain clumps of algae and high levels of ammonia.

The water, a main feature encircling the development's 700 villas, was tested on October 5 by an independent accredited laboratory, which found the algae and high ammonia levels.

Maintenance workers have now removed some of the green algae - as they periodically do - although the older, whitened algae is visible along the shoreline.

For months, residents had complained of the smell, the algae and also mosquitoes, thought to be breeding in the stagnant water.

Nakheel attributed the problem to poor circulation. The water is drawn from the Gulf and is supposed to be pumped out daily to prevent such problems.

"Nakheel is taking temporary measures in terms of cleaning the lakes and repairing the circulation system," a spokesperson said. "We are in the process of engaging expertise on the lakes to evaluate it and advise on the way ahead for a sustainable water quality and lakes environment."

The spokesperson declined to specify what temporary measures it had taken, or to provide a timetable for its long-term fixes.

One resident of Jumeirah Islands said that in the past month he had seen workers plucking algae from the water.

They had done this before the water was tested, too, he said, but continued to leave behind the whitened algae on the land next to the lakes.

"You can see froth along the edges," he said.

The shore of one small lake, just steps from residents' back yards, also remained lined with whitened algae, giving off a faint smell. Weeds had begun to grow over parts of it. The green algae that had floated in the small lake a month ago, however, had been removed.

In the test last month the water was found to contain three times the level of ammonia permitted by the Dubai Municipality for "bodies of water that discharge to land", the category closest to lake water.

In an open area, ammonia can give off a bad smell and exacerbate respiratory problems such as asthma, especially in children.

The lake also contained 30 times the legal amount of "total dissolved solids", which can cause water to harden and clog the underwater pipes that are supposed to circulate the water. It was also found to have twice the legal amount of "total suspended solids", which derive from waste thrown in the water and can discolour it.

Owners also complained of mosquitoes. Although microbiological contaminants such as mosquito larvae were not found in the test, several experts said the water may have been too hot at the time to host them.

"If the aeration [from the current pump] is not enough, basically they have to change it, or do something," said Walid Saleh, a Dubai-based expert at the Institute for Water, Environment and Health at the United Nations University. "It cannot just be left like that, or it will become a swamp."