News Feature | January 7, 2016

EPA Makes Major Move Toward Regulating Cyanotoxins

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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Cyanotoxins, the poison component of blue-green algae, are among the latest entries on the U.S. EPA’s list of substances it plans to study as a precursor to regulatory action.

In December, the agency announced which substances it will study between 2018 and 2020. “The contaminants it chose to investigate include ten contaminants created by algal growths in water sources (known as cyanotoxins), two metals, eight pesticides, three acid groups of disinfectant byproducts, three types of alcohols and three semivolatile organic compounds,” Crain’s Detroit Business reported.

Meanwhile, the agency has also named some substances that it has decided not to regulate. Those include “dimethoate, 1,3-dinitrobenzene, terbufos and terbufos sulfone,” The Hill recently reported.

The backdrop is this, per Crain’s Detroit Business:

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to identify no more than 30 unregulated contaminants to monitor study and determine whether they should be regulated every five years. These contaminants are ones that are not regulated, but are known or expected to be present in drinking water. This list of substances, known as the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL), identifies contaminants that may possibly have negative health effects.

Cyanotoxins, which are produced by blue-green algae, were already on the government radar because they pose a threat to drinking water resources. In Toledo, OH, last year, a ban on water use prevented around 400,000 residents from using their faucets for over two days amid toxic algae contamination, CNN reported.

Where does the blue-green algae problem come from? At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on cyanotoxins, John Donahue, president of the American Water Works Association, explained the origin of the problem.

“There is no uncertainty about one critical aspect of the problem: It is always associated with amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water,” Donahue said, per Roll Call. “Although each watershed is unique and has its own mix of nutrient sources, across the nation the most prominent uncontrolled sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are non-point sources — that is, runoff. These sources are at the same time both the hardest to manage and the furthest from being subject to meaningful federal regulatory authority.”

For the latest cyanotoxin news, visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "simba," g.a.z.a. © 2015, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/