UToledo Awarded $1.5 Million to Fight Algal Blooms in Reservoirs, Rivers Used for Public Water Supply

April 17, 2023 | News, UToday, Engineering, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Christine Billau

Researchers at The University of Toledo are helping communities throughout northwest Ohio that don’t draw drinking water from Lake Erie protect their raw water supplies from toxic algae.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded UToledo a three-year, $1.5 million grant to target Ohio’s inland water sources and treatment plants with new monitoring and treatment methods to control harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their toxins.

The team has already established that new instruments and methods work well under the conditions and types of cyanobacteria found in western Lake Erie.

A body of water as it meets the shore. It's a reservoir for the city of Defiance.

A reservoir for the city of Defiance

As part of their new project, the researchers will work with Defiance, Bowling Green and Wauseon to apply these new methods to HABs in reservoirs those cities use for drinking water production.

The UToledo engineers and scientists working on the water quality project also will work to understand the dynamics of HABs in the Maumee River, which flows into Lake Erie and is used as a water source for public water systems and businesses.

“The Maumee River flows through many cities and farmlands in northern Ohio and is the major conduit of nutrients to the western basin of Lake Erie, causing the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie,” said Dr. Youngwoo Seo, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and chemical engineering, and leader of the new project. “Harmful algal blooms in the Maumee River and reservoirs remain poorly understood. Our research will develop methods to rapidly detect and monitor HABs in the inland source waters as well as develop sustained and scalable mitigation and treatment technologies for HAB-associated risk management from the source to the tap.”

Researchers stand together outside a building that is the Defiance Water Treatment Plant

From left, Dr. Dae-Wook Kang, Dr. Youngwoo Seo, Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, Dr. Kuo-Pei Tsai, a post-doctoral researcher at the UToledo Lake Erie Center, Sarah Mashhadi, a Ph.D. student studying civil and environmental engineering, Joe Ewers, assistant superintendent of the Defiance Water Treatment Plant, and Adam McDowell, superintendent of the Defiance Water Treatment Plant. They are pictured at the Defiance Water Treatment Plant.

Co-investigators on the new grant include Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, a professor of ecology and director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center, Dr. Dae-Wook Kang, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Dr. Yakov Lapitsky, a professor of chemical engineering.

“Managers of inland water plants that use rivers and reservoirs as water sources are very interested learning whether these devices we have been testing can help them track the algae in their incoming water,” Bridgeman said.

However, their water conditions and types of cyanobacteria can be quite different from Lake Erie, and it needs to be determined whether the instruments are effective in those situations.

“For example, inland water sources may be very turbid, or cloudy, which could interfere with the instruments’ ability to measure algae,” Bridgeman said. “The species of cyanobacteria in reservoirs and lakes can also be very different from Lake Erie species, and we don’t know how well the instruments will perform with them.”

As part of the project, the team also will increase understanding on the nutrient dynamics of harmful algal blooms in the Maumee River which may inform basin-wide efforts to reduce the frequency and intensity of toxic algae issues in the Great Lake.

Click to access the login or register cheese