News Feature | September 19, 2017

Researchers Offer Ohio Utilities Quick Turnaround On Samples

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

scientist reg new

Water utility officials in Ohio now have the chance to receive faster water samples results thanks to a new program at the University of Toledo (UT).

“By engaging with the lab, the municipalities can get early warning signs of new and emerging algal toxins, as well as quantification of existing toxins during cases of concern,” said Youngwoo Seo, an associate professor at the university, per a statement.

A $500,000 state grant paid for “new technology and renovations for the laboratory in the UT College of Engineering,” the Toledo Blade reported, citing university spokesman Meghan Cunningham.

The lab “eliminates concerns of cross contamination from other samples and improves testing accuracy,” the Blade reported, citing Cunningham. “The lab’s technology includes a liquid chromatography mass spectrometer system and a flow cytometer. They will be used to detect various cyanotoxins — such as microcystin from the toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie — and assimilable organic carbon, which is used by harmful microorganisms.”

Joseph Lawrence, a UT professor, noted that sampling presents challenges to water utilities.

“Many water utilities have difficulties in continuously analyzing samples [because of] high costs and limited time,” he said. “They will now have access to the lab on a regular basis for monitoring contaminants in treated water, as well as samples from different points in the treatment process.

“A water utility could, for example, send water samples every week during the algal bloom to track the concentration of toxins in source water and treated water so that they can make informed decisions on the type of treatment,” he said.

The university cut the ribbon on the new lab this month, according to a statement from the school.

Toledo officials banned drinking water for residents in August 2014 due to toxic algae contamination, CNN reported. That year, the bloom was not unusually large, but it was especially toxic.

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