News Feature | March 30, 2016

Treatment Options Are Centerpiece Of EPA Algae Efforts

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. EPA is working on new guidelines for addressing toxic algae in lakes and rivers.

“Agency officials said the focus will be on people who are likely to swallow water during recreational activities. The EPA issued a report to Congress [in November] saying that it also will be looking at whether new health advisories are needed on algae toxins in drinking water,” the Wisconsin Gazette reported.

The report to Congress explained the EPA’s ongoing efforts to fight toxic algae blooms. Some of the agency’s efforts surround understanding how to effectively treat this threat to drinking water.

“The EPA is increasing its laboratory capacity for analyzing cyanotoxins; for example, EPA Region 7 enhanced its EPA lab capabilities and conducted microcystin analysis in September 2015 for the Kickapoo Nation of Kansas for the Delaware River (source of water) and finished water at the treatment plant,” the congressional report said.

The official report also noted activities the agency has already completed. “After consulting with states and other stakeholders, the EPA developed its recommendations on monitoring frequency for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin in raw and finished drinking water based, in part, on conditions in source water and at the treatment plant,” the report said.

The report detailed agency plans for future research, including efforts to identify ideal treatment methods.

“The EPA plans... to undertake a systematic study to evaluate the capacity of [granular activated carbon] to remove cyanotoxins from source water. In addition, the EPA plans to investigate how to implement process and operational changes for maximum protection and cost-effectiveness under a variety of site-specific constraints. Ideally, these changes would minimize capital, maintenance and operational expenses and be scalable across treatment facility size and resource level. In order to address these questions, EPA intends to perform pilot-scale studies at field locations and at in-house facilities,” the report said.

Cyanotoxins, the poison component of blue-green algae, are among the latest entries on the 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.

For stories about combating algal bloom, visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.