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New Tech Aims To Help Ward Off Toxic Algae, Man-made Pollutants

Bottles of Lake Erie water are tested in a lab.
Brian Bull
/
WCPN
Bottles of Lake Erie water are tested in a lab.

Researchers at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) say they’ve begun testing water samples with the latest technology, following last summer’s water shutdown in Toledo.

Hundreds of swimmers will soon take to the lake as the weather warms up. And some swimmers will perhaps pause to ask: “How clean is the water? Are there contaminants, pollutants? Is there a risk of blue-green algae?”

Those are questions that the research team at NEORSD hope to have answers to, very soon.

“This unit here is about $300,000,” says Mike Citriglia, Sewer District Manager of Analytical Services.

At NEORSD’s site in Cuyahoga Falls, he shows me a device called a Mass Spectrometer.  It breaks down and isolates organic compounds found in water, and tells scientists what matter they are.

He says the latest model not only looks for toxins produced by blue-green algae, but man-made contaminants as well.

“We can not only look for these microcystins, but we can also start looking for personal care products and pharmaceuticals,” explains Citriglia.

“But our main focus was based on the Toledo crisis and everything that happened.  We have the expertise in our laboratory, to be able to help the local area out.”

Sewer District Staff are testing water from Edgewater, Villa Angela, and Euclid Beaches through mid-September.  They are also trying to refine testing so results can be concluded within a single day’s work, instead of several days.

The shoreline of Lake Erie can become gummed up with algae during the summer months.
Brian Bull
/
WCPN

And Citriglia adds that his staff is preparing for a major announcement coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soon.

“What’s coming out May 11th, the U.S. EPA will be giving us new limits for the threshold for microcystins.  Right now they’ve been using a 1 part per billion threshold.  It may be lower, it may be higher.  Depending on where that limit comes down, (it) will really dictate the methodology used for testing.”

Citriglia reminds municipalities that NEORSD’s Mass Spectrometer is open to assist Ohio communities including Toledo, should there be concerns of toxic algal blooms like those that shut down the city’s water supply for several days last August.