Scientists advance new technology to protect drinking water from Lake Erie algal toxins

ScienceDaily | 2/11/2019 | Staff
joseph76 (Posted by) Level 3
After the harmful algal bloom prompted the city of Toledo's "Do Not Drink" advisory, the microbiologist expanded his research projects to target microcystin.

"I live here, and I have a young son," said Huntley, associate professor in the UT Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. "I don't want toxins in the water, and I am committed to helping the water treatment plant protect the public."

Huntley - Research - Lab - Progress - Mission

Huntley's research lab recently made major progress in his mission to create a biofilter that uses naturally occurring Lake Erie bacteria to remove microcystin released by harmful algal blooms from drinking water, reducing or eliminating the use of chlorine and other chemicals.

"We've identified groups of bacteria in Lake Erie that can be used to naturally purify water. To our knowledge, these bacteria have not been previously used to fight harmful algal blooms in other parts of the world," Huntley said.

Microbiologists - Bacteria - Lake - Erie - Microcystin

The microbiologists successfully isolated bacteria from Lake Erie that degrade the microcystin toxin known as MC-LR -- the most toxic, most common and most closely linked to liver cancer and other diseases -- at a daily rate of up to 19 parts per billion (ppb).

Water analysts and toxicologists measure microcystin and other contaminants using the metric of ppb; one ppb is one part in 1 billion. These ppb numbers are important for human health because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that young children not drink water containing more than 0.3 ppb of microcystin and adults not drink water containing more than 1.6 ppb of microcystin.

Bacteria - Toxin - Water - Crisis - Huntley

"The bacteria we've identified can degrade much more toxin than was reported in the 2014 water crisis," Huntley said. "Based on recorded toxin levels in Lake Erie in recent years, these rates would be able to effectively remove microcystin from water supplies."

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