A new Drinking Water Research Laboratory at The University of Toledo will allow local municipalities to quickly and easily test the safety of the public water supply.
A $500,000 grant from the state of Ohio Community Capital Program provided the state-of-the-art technology and renovations for the laboratory in the UT College of Engineering.
The lab’s new liquid chromatography mass spectrometer system and new flow cytometer will be used to detect various cyanotoxins, such as microcystin from the toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie, and assimilable organic carbon, which is used by harmful microorganisms, to ensure the contaminants are not present in drinking water.
The dedicated lab focused exclusively on drinking water research eliminates concerns of cross contamination from other samples to allow very low detection limits for improved testing accuracy.
“Water treatment plants in Ohio face new challenges from a host of emerging algal toxins, as well as contaminants from other emerging micropollutants, such as pharmaceutical products or microplastics, in their source waters,” said Dr. Youngwoo Seo, associate professor in UT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering departments. “By engaging with the lab, the municipalities can get early warning signs of new and emerging algal toxins, as well as quantification of existing toxins during cases of concern.”
“Many water utilities have difficulties in continuously analyzing samples due to high costs and limited time. They will now have access to the lab on a regular basis for monitoring contaminants in treated water, as well as samples from different points in the treatment process,” said Dr. Joseph G. Lawrence, UT research professor and director of the Center for Materials and Sensor Characterization. “A water utility could, for example, send water samples every week during the algal bloom to track the concentration of toxins in source water and treated water so that they can make informed decisions on the type of treatment.”
Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With $12.5 million in active grants underway, UT experts are studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants. Researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.