AWWA and Water Research Foundation publish cyanotoxins guidance for water utilities

video on cyanotoxins and cyanobacteria

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation (WRF) have released a guide and additional resources to help water professionals detect and control cyanotoxins, the algae-related contaminants that can negatively impact drinking water quality.

“Managing Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water: A Technical Guidance Manual for Drinking Water Professionals” provides information to utility professionals on the preparation, treatment, and response to cyanotoxins concerns. An accompanying manual, “A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Cyanotoxins” was released in April 2015. Both documents are available for free download from both the AWWA and WRF websites.

Cyanotoxins typically arise from cyanobacteria — often 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 very high exposures include liver, nervous system, and gastrointestinal problems.

Additionally, both organizations have recently released additional resources designed to assist utilities with understanding, planning for, and responding to cyanotoxins events. The recently launched WRF video, Understanding Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins (below), provides a utility perspective on the latest in source water protection, monitoring, detection, and treatment of cyanotoxins. Additional resources can be found in the WRF’s Knowledge Portal.

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

These cyanotoxin resources come as various Canadian and America governments considers how to address cyanotoxins from both regulatory and legislative perspectives.

Health Canada released a public consultation for cynanobacterial toxins in drinking water in February 2016, proposing a seasonal maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5 µg/L for total microcystins in drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued drinking water health advisories in 2015 for water utilities and states to use as they take steps to protect communities from algal toxins. The 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.

For more information visit the American Water Works Association and the Water Research Foundation.


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