Skip to content

Research Recap: This Week in EPA Science

2014 September 12

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleOne thing I’ve learned since starting work here at EPA is that we love to use acronyms. I even keep a running list in my notebook which I sometimes discretely check mid-conversation. For example, I work in EPA ORD IOAA Comms (translation: Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Immediate Office of the Assistant Administrator, Science Communications).

Read below to find out why a discussion at EPA involving PARIS isn’t necessarily about the city in France, and learn about more research that’s been highlighted this week.

That being said, here is today’s Research Recap: this week in EPA science, or as we like to call it: R.R. – T.W.I.E.P.A.S. (Just kidding!)

 

  • PARIS III: EPA’s Solvent Substitution Software Tool

EPA researchers have developed a software tool called “Program for Assisting the Replacement of industrial Solvents, version 3.0, “ or PARIS III, that helps companies find alternate chemical mixtures or solvents that still improve their industrial processes but are not as harmful to our environment. The tool is provided by the EPA for free, and can be effective and efficiently used to help individuals find better and more benign solvent mixtures for many different common industrial processes.

Read more.

Download the tool.

 

  • Digitally Detecting Waterborne Illnesses

EPA researchers are bringing current methods of monitoring human pathogens in drinking water into the digital age. This advancement would offer a whole new set of opportunities, including greater statistical power to detect if the pathogen is present and, if so, to determine its concentration.

Dr. Eric Villegas, a scientist working on the project explains, “Digital PCR can perform up to a million reactions in the same amount of time that standard techniques take, improving how we model the detection of waterborne pathogens.”

Read more.

 

  • EPA Announces Funding to Create Two New Drinking Water Innovation Centers.

Two EPA-funded innovation enters will develop and test advanced, low cost methods to reduce, control, and eliminate groups of water contaminants that present challenges to communities worldwide.

“These centers will help to develop innovative and practical solutions for challenges faced by smaller drinking water systems, which make up the majority of public water systems in the United States,” said Lek Kadeli, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Read more.

 

  •  EPA, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality renew partnerships with Hampton University, Norfolk State University

The goals of the partnership include promoting an increase in the number of minorities with careers in environmental science and environmental engineering, and promoting a greater understanding of the causes and effects of air pollution. The partnership will also continue an EPA-funded program called LEAP—Linking Environmental and Academic Programs—at both universities.

Read more.

 

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick recently joined the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Digitally Detecting Waterborne Illnesses

2014 September 11

By Marguerite Huber

Toxoplasma gondii oocysts

Toxoplasma gondii oocysts

The smaller something is, the harder it is to find. Just try finding a needle in a haystack, or low concentrations of pathogens such as Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) and Cryptosporidium in drinking water. These two human pathogens are the leading causes of protozoan waterborne illnesses (toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidiosis), so they are something the drinking water industries are working hard to monitor.

To understand exposure risks associated with T. gondii and Cryptosporidium, sensitive and accurate detection and clinical diagnostic tools must be in place. The lack of such tools make environmental monitoring for these parasites challenging.

One of the biggest issues with monitoring human pathogens is that if it is environmentally transmitted (such as through drinking water), its concentrations can be very low, making it difficult to detect with current water monitoring practices.

EPA researchers have recognized that detection is the biggest challenge.  They are working to help bring current methods–which rely on a technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that amplifies genetic material (DNA) for further analysis—into the digital age. They have designed software to assess the performance and detection limits of digital PCR (dPCR) to accurately quantify low concentration levels of T. gondii and Cryptosporidium.

Dr. Eric Villegas, a scientist working on the project explains, “Digital PCR can perform up to a million reactions in the same amount of time that standard techniques take, improving how we model the detection of waterborne pathogens.”

This capability of dPCR offers a whole new set of opportunities, including greater statistical power to detect if the pathogen is present and, if so, to determine its concentration. “The software that we developed assesses the quality of the data collected and determines the concentration of pathogens with high precision and accuracy,” researcher Dr. Scott Keely, explains. Ultimately, this approach will provide additional sensitivity for quick and accurate diagnosis of parasite infections.

Overall, this research will detect pathogens better and faster than existing methods, which will allow policymakers, drinking water utilities, and managers to scrutinize available data, analyze it with confidence, and learn what type of data to collect in the future. Most importantly, it will help minimize any health risk related to drinking and recreational water quality by providing decision-makers with methods and tools that decrease the amount of time to reach decisions regarding the management of water bodies or other sources of drinking water where these pathogens are of potential concern.

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

PARIS III: EPA’s Solvent Substitution Software Tool

2014 September 10

By Paul Harten, Ph.D.

Opening screen of EPA's PARIS III.

EPA’s PARIS III

For decades, companies have used chemicals or solvents to improve the performance of their industrial processes.  Unfortunately, many of these solvents are released as harmful wastes into our environment.  EPA researchers are helping reduce that practice.

Recently, my colleagues and I developed a software tool, called PARIS III, that helps companies find alternate chemical mixtures or solvents that still improve their industrial processes but are not as harmful to our environment.

PARIS III stands for “Program for Assisting the Replacement of industrial Solvents, version 3.0”.  Previous versions of the PARIS tool have been as effective, but this version has specifically been developed by the EPA as a free solvent substitution software tool.  It can be used by any environmentally-conscious individual, including solvent technicians, industrial and solvent engineers, and environmental consultants.

The PARIS III database includes more than 4000 solvents commonly used by industry.  In the search for replacements, it taps only those that have less environmental impact (greener), mixing them together in different proportions to find mixtures that perform as close as possible to the performance of those currently used by companies.  The close replacement mixtures found can then be sorted to choose those mixtures that are least harmful to the environment.

To download and learn more about the tool, go to: www.epa.gov/nrmrl/std/parisIII/parisIII.html

Learn more and download the tool at the website listed below.

The software uses the Environmental Index of solvent mixtures. That is a measure of a solvent mixtures’ impact on the environment, made by combining a various indicators, including human health, acid rain, and global warming.  By looking at the ratio of the original solvent mixture’s Environmental Index to the Environmental Index of its replacement, you can get an estimate of how much harm to the environment will be avoided.  For example, if the Environmental Index of the original solvent mixture is 10.0, and the Environmental Index of the replacement solvent mixture is 1.0, then using the replacement solvent instead of the original solvent will reduce harm to the environment by a factor of 10.0 to 1.0.

This solvent substitution software tool is provided by the EPA for free, and can be effective and efficiently used to help environmentally-conscious individuals find better and greener solvent mixtures for many different common industrial processes.  Simply download and start using this tool at EPA’s website:

http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/std/parisIII/parisIII.html

About the Author: EPA Physical Scientist Paul Harten has a Ph.D. in computational physics and a great amount of experience in computer science. He has been extensively involved with growth in the computer-oriented environmental sciences during his fifteen years with the Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Research Recap: This week in EPA Science

2014 September 5

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleIt’s the first week of September which means it’s the end of summer, kids are going back to school, football is starting, and pumpkin-flavored everything is appearing in grocery stores and coffee shops.

September is also National Preparedness Month, and although EPA researchers work year-round to help local communities across the nation become more resilient and better prepared to respond to disasters, their efforts will be highlighted this month.  

  • Yale University’s The Metric blog featured how the Agency’s Office of Homeland Security “is now taking steps to build community capacity on environmental resilience to reduce risk from both natural and manmade risks.” Read Disasters Looming, EPA Focuses on Environmental Resilience.
  • To learn more about how EPA homeland security researchers support such efforts, see the special homeland security issue of our EPA Science Matters newsletter.

Recently, we saw how toxins from harmful algal and cyanobacterial blooms can disrupt the nation’s source waters.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick recently joined the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Helping Communities and Water Utilities Address Harmful Algal Blooms

2014 September 4

By Darren Lytle, Heath Mash, and Nick Dugan

Satellite image of west end of Lake Erie showing algal bloom.

Algal bloom in the west end of Lake Erie, August 3, 2014. Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.

Toxins from harmful algal and cyanobacterial blooms are increasingly contaminating many of our nation’s source waters. We saw this just recently in Toledo, Ohio where toxins, most likely microcystins, made their way through the water treatment facility leaving many people without drinking water.

Many of the drinking water treatment facilities in the Great Lakes region were built before World War II and were designed to filter out particles of a certain size.  As a result, removing the much smaller cyanobacterial toxins, such as microcystins, at these facilities can be difficult and expensive. Our research is helping communities confront this challenge.

Close up of hand filling a glass with tap water.

EPA researchers are helping to protect drinking water sources.

For example, recognizing the potential health and economic consequences of disruptions to municipal water supplies, we have partnered with Ohio EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct studies aimed at helping water treatment facilities cope with water quality changes in their water sources, and to optimize treatment to reduce risks associated with harmful algal blooms, also known for the acronym “HABs.”

Preliminary surveys of full-scale treatment facilities have shown that the size of the contaminant is key to the problems it can cause. Cyanobacteria cells are large enough for existing treatment facilities to remove by filters and other methods, as long as the cells remain intact. However, toxins leaking out of damaged or dying cyanobacteria cells can be difficult for existing facilities to treat without expensive additional actions or modifications.

To address this, we are looking for ways to improve the performance of existing drinking water treatment facility operations. Our researchers are looking at how to modify certain treatment operations such as where in the process treatment chemicals are applied, the types and concentrations of chemicals used for treatment and the pH levels at which the processes are operated. We are also conducting research on ways to improve sampling and analysis to more effectively monitor and control cyanobacteria and their toxins, including microcystins.

Harmful algal blooms aren’t just a major concern for drinking water. Fish, birds, and other animals can come in contact with or ingest these toxins, and suffer adverse effects. There have even been incidences of pet and livestock fatalities from drinking water contaminated with algal toxins.

Blooms can also affect recreational activities. For example, people swimming, waterskiing, or fishing in contaminated water can be exposed to algal toxins.

Some of our colleagues are working to better define the environmental factors controlling the development, persistence, and toxin production related to harmful algal blooms. Collaborative research efforts are focusing on controlling nutrient runoff, remote sensing and monitoring of such blooms, as well as developing early warning systems that would alert recreationists and drinking water treatment plant operators alike to their presence and the potential of toxin formation, to help eliminate exposure risk. Other researchers are exploring the human health effects related to microcystin exposures, with an eye toward developing a health advisory in the near future.

Our goal is to develop tools and methods that communities can use to manage potential impacts of harmful algal blooms. We want to ensure our water is clean for generations to come and protect the environment and the health of people, pets, and livestock across the country.

Learn more about EPA’s research on Harmful Algal Blooms and Cyanobacteria.

For more information on harmful algal blooms and our research, please share your questions in the Comment section below, or contact us directly at sswr@epa.gov.

About the Authors

Darren Lytle is an environmental engineer who focuses his research on drinking water contaminants and treatment technologies. He investigates corrosion control and water quality; lead and copper corrosion control; and filtration with an emphasis on removal of microbial pathogens.

Heath Mash is a chemist who studies the efficacy of hormone-like contaminant removal during water treatment, the occurrence and treatability of harmful algal bloom toxins, and identification of disinfection byproducts from hormones and algal bloom toxins material during treatment.

Nick Dugan is an environmental engineer currently focused on bench-scale trials evaluating the impact of common drinking water treatment oxidants on intact, toxin-producing cyanobacterial cells over a range of water quality conditions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Research Recap: This Week in EPA Science

2014 August 29

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleA good amount of my college career was spent on the top floor of the library, cramming for exams the next day. Even after graduating, I have yet to drop the habit. The night before my first day at EPA, I was frantically trying to catch up on all the research that the Agency had been doing so that I could follow along the next day.

A month later, I’m still a little lost during meetings – there is just that much going on here!

To help keep up—and break a bad habit—I’ve decided to do a quick, weekly review. And as part of the science communication team, I figured it would be a good thing to share what I’ve learned. Starting today, I’ll be posting a quick rundown most Fridays of some of the research that’s been reported by EPA and others over the week.

This is the first post in a new, weekly segment we are calling “Research Recap.”

And if you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section. My colleagues and I will contact our scientists and get back to you as soon as we can with answers. And don’t worry, I promise there won’t be any pop quizzes!

 

This week’s Research Recap:

 

  •  Careers in Environmental Health Science

Oregon State University’s superfund research program created the video “Careers in Environmental Health” to introduce students to various careers in science. Scientists from both the university and EPA were interviewed about their job, as well as how they ended up becoming a scientist.

Watch the videos.
Meet more EPA researchers at work.

 

  • Colorado State University Hosts Cookstove Testing Marathon

Colorado State University hosted a laboratory testing campaign as part of a $1.5 million study on the air quality, climate and health effects of cookstove smoke to help determine to what extent the stoves used by 3 billion people worldwide for heating, lighting and cooking are contributing to climate change and global air quality.

Read more.

 

  • Studying Stream Restoration

EPA scientists set out to evaluate how well “out-of-stream” restoration actions (those actions that take place in the watershed as opposed to within streams) work. These approaches are important because efforts that have focused solely on habitat restoration within streams have had limited success.

Read more.

 

  • EPA Report Shows Progress in Reducing Urban Air Toxics Across the United States

Based largely on Agency clean air research, EPA released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress—the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. The report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

Read more.

 

  • From Lake to Classroom: EPA workshop on Lake Erie Provides Tools for Science Teacher 

A seventh-grade science teacher spent a portion of his summer on an EPA research vessel as part of a workshop sponsored jointly by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and EPA. “Having the opportunity to research alongside EPA and university scientists aboard a floating science lab was truly a one-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

Read more.

 

  • Local Water Woes, No More? Advancing Safe Drinking Water Technology

In 2007, a student team from the University of California, Berkeley won an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award for their research project aiming to test a cost-effective, self-cleaning, and sustainable arsenic-removal technology. The same group of former Berkeley students who formed the P3 team now own a company called SimpleWater, which aims to commercialize their product in the US.

Read more.

 

  • Microbe-Free Beaches, Thanks to Dogs

Seagull droppings can carry disease-causing microbes which can contaminate beaches and water. In a new study, researchers show that unleashing dogs keeps the seagulls away—and the water at the beach free of microbes.

Read more.

 

About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick recently joined the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Local Water Woes, No More? Advancing Safe Drinking Water Technology

2014 August 25

By Ryann A. Williams

P3 Team shows their water filter

The SimpleWater company got their start as an EPA P3 team.

As a child growing up in Washington, D.C. I remember hearing adults talk about their concerns about the local tap water. Overheard conversations about lead content and murkiness in the water certainly got my attention. As an adult who now works at the Environmental Protection Agency, I know things have greatly improved.

Today, DC tap water is among the least of my concerns. I drink it every day.  Frequent testing to confirm its safety and public awareness campaigns by DC Water (the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority) have put my own worries to rest. But in other parts of the world and even in some areas of the U.S., people still have a reason to worry about their drinking water: arsenic.

Globally, millions of people are exposed to arsenic via drinking water and can suffer serious adverse health effects from prolonged exposure.

This is especially true in Bangladesh where it is considered a public health emergency. Other countries where drinking water can contain unsafe levels of arsenic include Argentina, Chile, Mexico, China, Hungary, Cambodia, Vietnam, and West Bengal (India). In addition, parts of the U.S. served by private wells or small drinking water systems also face risks due to arsenic in their drinking water.

Remedies are expensive and both energy- and chemical-intensive.

In 2007, a student team from the University of California, Berkeley won an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award for their research project aiming to help change that.

Explaining the arsenic removal project.

Explaining the arsenic removal project.

The students set out to test a cost-effective, self-cleaning, and sustainable arsenic-removal technology that employs a simple electric current. The current charges iron particles that attract and hold on to arsenic, and are then removed by filter or settle out of the water.

By the end of their P3 funding in 2010, promising results had allowed the team to extend their field testing to Cambodia and India, and move forward with the licensing and marketing of their product to interested companies in Bangladesh and India.

Today, the same group of former Berkeley students who formed the P3 team now own a company called SimpleWater.

SimpleWater is among 21 companies that recently received a Phase One contract from EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

SimpleWater aims to commercialize their product and bring their track record of success in Bangladesh and India to help Americans who may be at risk from arsenic exposure in their drinking water. In particular they’re focusing on those who live in arsenic-prone areas and whose drinking water is served by private wells or small community water systems that test positive for elevated arsenic levels. (Learn more about Arsenic in Drinking Water and what to do if you think testing is needed for your water.)

Thanks to EPA support, SimpleWater is working to reduce the threat of arsenic in small drinking water systems and private wells. With their help, millions of people may soon feel safer about their drinking water, and like me, have one less big thing to worry about.

About the Author: Ryann Williams is a student services contractor with the communications team at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. When she’s not working with the team, she enjoys other team activities like soccer and football.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress Released

2014 August 21

Today, EPA released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress, sharing our progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. Many of the data, findings, and conclusions of the report are supported by Agency clean air research. Cleaner air: it all starts with science.

Learn more about the report in the blog, reposted from Environmental Justice in Action, below.

Urban Air Toxics Report Shows Reduced Pollution in Communities

By Janet McCabe

Janet-McCabeReducing toxic air emissions has been a priority for EPA, and I am proud of the progress that we’ve made in communities across the country. Today, we released our Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress —the second of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. I want to share some of the highlights with you.

The report shows significant nationwide reductions in toxic chemicals in the air in our communities. That’s good news for public health, because the Clean Air Act identifies 187 hazardous air pollutants, about half of which are known or suspected to cause cancer. Many can cause other health effects, such as damage to the immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems.

And while emissions of air toxics affect everyone living in this country, the data tell us that the risk can be higher for people living in cities, and particularly those in low income and minority neighborhoods.

Read the rest of the post.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Studying Stream Restoration

2014 August 20

By Marguerite Huber

Stream running through a lush, forested landscape

Forested stream

When I was younger, there was a prairie and stream behind my house. I ran and played there all the time with my friends until a house was built in its place. The lot was transformed from a wild, overgrown landscape to a manicured lawn. With the prairie gone and stream no longer enticing our adventures, we stopped playing there.

When homes and roads are built, they affect the habitat, quantity, and quality of water in downstream ecosystems (as well as natural places for kids to play!).  Additionally, it causes an increase in nutrients like the fertilizer from that manicured lawn, and sediments, metals, and other pollutants making development a leading factor in stream impairment.

Local communities are increasingly turning to engineered techniques intended to reduce or eliminate the impacts of development on streams and other aquatic ecosystems. But do such efforts work?

Stream running through an urban area

Urban stream

EPA scientists Naomi Detenbeck and Nathan Smucker set out to evaluate how well “out-of-stream” restoration actions (those actions that take place in the watershed as opposed to within streams) work and to identify any general trends found in the scientific literature. They examined the response of water quality, habitat and hydrology, and ecological structure and function to development and restoration.

The scientists used statistical analysis to identify more than 40-years’ worth of published scientific literature on effective ways to protect streams from the unintended impacts of activities that harm streams. Starting with more than 1,400 papers, they pared it down to thirty-eight that covered forty-four restoration projects.

Smucker and Detenbeck found that the projects covered a number of stream restoration actions such as riparian buffers, human-made wetlands, and stormwater ponds. The projects looked at the bigger picture of managing streams by focusing on their watersheds. These “out-of-stream” approaches are important because efforts that have focused solely on habitat restoration within streams have had limited success.

Pooling together data from all the papers, the researchers found that biodiversity was reduced by more than half in unrestored urban streams and measures of things such as reducing erosion, nitrogen fixation, and other ecosystems services were significantly greater in restored streams than unrestored.

Even if it is impossible to fully restore streams, preventative actions can still be taken to protect downstream ecosystems in watersheds that are facing future development. In addition, tracking restoration projects (like the ones used in the studies) and ongoing monitoring would benefit future efforts to protect, restore, and manage streams.

Knowing what works and what doesn’t can help government agencies, policymakers, and citizens recognize and evaluate potential environmental outcomes resulting from their actions and decisions. It can also aid in setting restoration goals, prioritizing sites to monitor, and guiding future decisions and development as populations continue to grow.

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a student contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Science In Action: Keeping an Eye on Harmful Algal Blooms

2014 August 12

By Cindy Sonich-Mullin

A half million people living in and around Toledo, Ohio recently experienced a weekend without tap water. A “harmful algal bloom” of cyanobacteria in Lake Erie, Toledo’s water source, produced unsafe levels of the toxin microcystin. The toxin is known to cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and at high exposure levels, liver damage.

A water advisory was issued alerting residents to avoid all contact with Toledo drinking water.

At the first sign of trouble, colleagues at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency contacted my laboratory to provide technical assistance and water sample analysis to support the City of Toledo’s drinking water utility.

We were a natural choice to help out. Not only is EPA’s Cincinnati-based laboratory facility relatively close geographically, but our scientific staff includes a team of leading experts with analytical capabilities in drinking water treatment and cyanobacterial toxins.

Throughout the weekend, we performed tests and conducted sensitive analyses to help identify the optimal approach for controlling the toxins in Toledo’s water plant and distribution system.  We shared our test results with our partners from Ohio EPA, who interpreted them along with their own results and others from the City of Toledo.

We were all greatly relieved the morning of August 6th, when the City of Toledo determined that they could lift the water advisory.

At the time, Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler released the following statement: “After exhaustive testing, analysis and discussions between Toledo water officials, the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA, we support the city’s decision to lift its drinking water advisory. Throughout the difficulty of the past few days everyone involved has demonstrated the utmost professionalism and commitment to solving this problem. The mayor and his team, U.S. EPA and the other scientific and academic leaders who lent us their expertise worked in a constructive way to turn the water back on for the people of Toledo.”

While many weekend plans were cancelled due to the crisis in Toledo, we were honored to be called on to help our sister city to the north. As scientists, it is gratifying to use our expertise and the tools we develop to provide solutions to communities. Of course, what would be even better than lending our expertise and rapid response and analysis capabilities would be to help prevent harmful algal blooms from threatening drinking water supplies in the first place. And that is just what we are doing. In fact, we’ve shared some of our harmful algal bloom research recently here on our blog. Below are some recent posts with more information on that work.

As the above blogs exemplify, EPA researchers are working hard to better understand the dynamics of harmful algal blooms. EPA is also working with other agencies to accelerate the development and deployment of affordable sensors that will help predict future algal blooms. This means we will be even better poised to work with cities like Toledo and other local communities to better protect precious drinking water supplies. Keep an eye here on “It All Starts with Science” to see future posts about that work, and more.

About the Author: Cindy Sonich-Mullin is the Director of EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has over 30 years of experience in EPA, leading research and response efforts on a wide variety of environmental issues.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.