University of Toledo gets new technology to dissect algae bloom toxins

(Haraz N. Ghanbari | AP)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:38 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Digging further to determine exactly what’s happening inside the harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie is the newest project for University of Toledo researchers. Getting a better idea of the biology inside should ultimately lead to making sure we have clean drinking water every summer.

There may have been more happening in the 2014 algal bloom that caused the water crisis than experts imagined that summer.

“Up to now we’ve been sort of hitting the blooms with a sledgehammer, now we’re trying to get to the point where we can use a scalpel to really undercut these blooms,” said Dr. Tom Bridgeman of the University of Toledo.

Dr. Bridgeman and his UT team just received more than a million dollars from the US Army Corps of Engineers. Part of the research will study viruses attacking the cyanobacteria cells, causing them to burst and release toxins, which happened in 2014.

“It doesn’t happen every year but when it happens it’s something you really need to know about,” said Bridgeman.

When it does, water treatment plant managers can adjust chemical treatments. Phase two will study the use of naturally occurring bacteria to attack blooms at inland reservoirs.

“They can be utilized, they can be engineered to detect the cyanobacteria and to treat the cyanotoxin in the water,” said Dr. Young Seo of the University of Toledo.

This part of the UT team will dig further into the bloom at a molecular level because there’s much more than the green goo we see.

“Harmful algal bloom is not an outcome of only cyanobacteria but it’s an active condition and collaboration of other neighboring bacteria,” Dr. Dae-Wook Kang, of the University of Toledo.

This technology will still take a few years to get up and running. UT currently uses its buoys to give the water treatment plant early data on the bloom.

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