Transport and Fate of Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water Distribution Systems

Researchers rule out lurking toxins before giving the “all clear” after an algal bloom event

Principal Investigator

Isabel Escobar, University of Toledo


New research will examine whether toxins from harmful algal blooms stick to water infrastructure like pipes and storage tanks—and therefore stick around in drinking water longer than expected.

After an emergency water advisory, when citizens are warned that the water in the tap has unsafe levels of algal toxin, “flushing pipes” is a common way to flush out toxin-contaminated water and replace it with fresh water. But until now, no one knew whether toxins may have stuck to the walls of pipes and storage tanks during the advisory, only to be released as contaminants later.

The new research project will determine how algal toxins interact with various pipe and storage tank materials in laboratory experiments. That data will then be used to update the commercial software used in water treatment plants that calculates whether water is safe to drink throughout the city’s entire network of pipes. The team is partnering with the City of Toledo, whose water supply was heavily affected by the August 2014 harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie.

The End Result

Safe drinking water for community residents and peace of mind for water managers who want to ensure the entire water delivery system is safe again after a toxin event.

Full Project Information

Read about the project at the Ohio Sea Grant website.