DYCKESVILLE - An effort is underway to clean up area beaches. That's what one Pulaski-based inventor hopes to do to do by turning zebra mussel shells into sand.
The inventor patented something called the Beachmaker to do just that.
This is a typical sight on beaches across the area: what was once shoreline is now a resting place for invasive zebra mussels.
RJ Elsing watched them pile up. Within months, several feet high on his property in Dyckesville.
"They're an eyesore. You can't use the beach the way, I think, God intended it to be used. Also, the stagnant water is harboring all sorts of bacteria," said Elsing.
So Elsing invented the Beachmaker. Like turning straw into gold, his machine turns shells into sand.
"When we change that into sand, it takes care of these problems, and you can walk on it barefoot again," said Elsing.
It works by vacuuming the shells, then crushing them. The Beachmaker mimics the waves' erosion on the shells, but where it takes the waves centuries to turn the shells into this, it takes the machine only moments.
But is it safe? That's what Kimberly Busse, a water quality specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh wants to find out.
"We just want to be sure that this product isn't affecting water quality. Then you have recreational activities on the beach. We just want to make sure those are safe," said Busse.
Busse said she'll work with Beachmakers, testing the sand they make. She wants to see what happens to the bacteria the shells are carrying.
"Seeing how much bacterial contamination is in there and then if the shell sand is actually contributing to bacteria concentrations, or eliminating, or staying the same," said Busse.
Elsing hopes his patented invention passes the university's tests. He said his machine can help make shorelines fun again.
"Allow people of all ages, especially kids to be able to play on our beaches," said Elsing.
The team will be testing the Beachmaker and the sand it makes into October.
The DNR tells us the invention is unlikely to have any negative impact on the environment, and that Elsing complies with all appropriate laws.
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