Sep 19, 2016

AWWA, WRF Release Cyanotoxins Guide for Water Utilities

Additional resources help protect water from algae-related contaminants

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The American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation (WRF) have released a guide and additional resources to help water professionals detect and control cyanotoxins - algae-related contaminants that can negatively impact drinking water quality. The guide is titled “Managing Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water: A Technical Guidance Manual for Drinking Water Professionals.”

The guide provides information to utility professionals on the preparation for, treatment of and response to cyanotoxin concerns. An accompanying manual, “A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Cyanotoxins,” was released in April 2015. Both documents are available for free download on the AWWA and WRF websites.

AWWA and WRF also recently released additional resources designed to assist the utility community with understanding, planning for and responding to cyanotoxin events. The new WRF video, Understanding Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins, provides a utility perspective on the latest in source water protection, monitoring, detection and treatment of cyanotoxins. Additional WRF resources can be found in the Cyanotoxins Knowledge Portal.

The AWWA report “Cyanotoxins in U.S. Drinking Water: Occurrence, Case Studies and State Approaches to Regulation” summarizes available state data on occurrence and the strategies employed by states to respond to cyanotoxin incidents. A suite of additional tools and reports on cyanotoxins are available on the AWWA Cyanotoxins Resource Page.

Cyanotoxins typically arise from cyanobacteria, which  often is referred to as blue-green algae, in lakes and reservoirs, and can impact drinking water quality, particularly taste and odor. While health effects from drinking water contaminated by cyanotoxins are not well understood, potential negative health impacts of prolonged or high exposure include liver, nervous system and gastrointestinal problems.

These resources come as the federal government considers how to address cyanotoxins from both regulatory and legislative perspectives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued drinking water health advisories in 2015 for water utilities and states as they take steps to protect communities from algal toxins. EPA has developed an Algal Toxin Strategic Plan that outlines approaches and projects that will control and manage algal toxins in source water and treat algal toxins in drinking water. Additionally, EPA has released a pre-publication copy of its proposed Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which includes 10 cyanotoxins/groups.

“As this challenging issue becomes more widespread, utility leaders are increasingly looking for reasonable solutions,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “These materials take the lessons that we have already learned and make them accessible to the entire sector.”  

“Cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins need to be managed from the source water to the treatment process,” said Robert Renner, WRF CEO. “These resources will help water utility managers and staff apply best practices to tackle this growing problem.”