Guidance for powdered activated carbon use to remove cyanotoxins

Smarter charcoal use: guidance for water treatment plants during algal bloom season

Principal Investigator

John Lenhart, The Ohio State University


Research in progress at The Ohio State University and the University of Toledo aims to provide guidance on how water treatment plants can most effectively remove harmful algal toxins from drinking water.

Harmful algal blooms can produce a family of toxins called microcystins that have to be scrubbed from water before it is safe to drink. Most water plants use powdered activated carbon (also called activated charcoal) to absorb and remove the toxins, but knowing the specific dosage to use can be a complicated matter, depending on varying levels of toxin and environmental conditions.

The research team, led by John Lenhart, an environmental engineer in the College of Engineering, will develop guidelines for water treatment plants to help them know exactly which dosage of powdered activated carbon to use under which conditions. These guidelines will take into account the types and concentrations of toxins present and the composition of the water—for instance, the presence of decaying organic matter from plants and animals, which is known to affect how the carbon absorbs toxins.

The End Result

Clean drinking water for communities and money savings for water plants that will be able to apply powdered activated carbon in a more targeted fashion.

Full Project Information

Read about the project at the Ohio Sea Grant website.