Here's a bright idea! A Modesto inventor is using light bulbs to kill weeds in Lake Tahoe.
The technology uses UV light to kill invasive plants. Milfoil is one of the many weeds that’s turning the clear waters of Lake Tahoe murky. The plant gets caught in boat motors and when it falls off, it spreads around the lake, the Delta and other bodies of still water.
And it's been a problem for years.
According to the state's parks department, California has paid nearly $1 million in vegetation spraying in the Delta from 2013 to 2017, and are projected to spend another $275,000 in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
In that time in the Delta, the state has sprayed over 13,000 acres of "floating aquatic vegetation" like milfoil and water hyacinth.
John Paoluccio, the owner of Inventive Resources, says he believes UV light treatment on the weeds could stunt the growth of these weeds, as opposed to spraying.
"UV lights are known to kill one-cell organisms and plants are made up of thousands of one-cell organisms," Paoluccio said.
UV light is not new technology. Water treatment plants have been using UV light for decades to treat drinking water. Paoluccio is just using it to kill weeds.
"Within a few minutes of treatment, the plants drop," Paoluccio said.
The process is somewhat simple. UV lights are dropped from a boat, then the lights are dragged over the weeds to penetrate all sides of the plant. Results can be seen in a few days.
The Modesto inventor first learned about the power of UV lights after he graduated college.
"I treated a cave wall that had a lot of algae on it," Paoluccio said.
He played with the idea for a long time. Eventually, he started testing the lights.
“We proved the concept with a variety of plants in the lab,” he said.
His work eventually caught the attention of non-profit group Tahoe Fund. The group has a few weed abatement projects in the works, but UV light treatment intrigued Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry because doesn’t use chemical to kill the plants.
“There are no herbicides in Lake Tahoe. They are not allowed," Berry said.
Tahoe Fund secured more than $260,000 funding through their Environmental Venture Trust to help get the project stated. This private public venture helped Paoluccio build the lightbulb weed killing boat that he is using to treat the weeds in Tahoe.
"We are always looking for what’s the next technique we can use," Berry said.
The goal now is to treat a number of marinas and beaches.
The lightbulb weed killing boat still has months of testing to complete, but, someday, Paoluccio hopes that he can partner with a weed abatement company to treat invasive plants on a larger scale.
"I just hope the scientific community looks at this and realizes it’s a good idea," Paoluccio said. He has already reached out to several agencies in San Joaquin County. He hopes to do some test treatments on water Hyacinth in the near future.