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EPA awards $3.6 million for research into water contaminants

WaterWebster.org Staff Report

Sept. 4, 2008

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Six research organizations will share $3.6 million in EPA grants to improve the detection of known and emerging drinking water contaminants, the Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

Included in the study are the harmful substances produced by blue-green algae in algal blooms and noroviruses, the announcement said. The grants range from about $500,000 to $600,000.

The six research institutions are Battelle Memorial Institute in Richland, Washington; Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana; the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia; the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri; and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The EPA presently regulates 90 harmful chemicals, microorganisms and radiation in water. To ensure healthier drinking water, EPA said it is encouraging research into other possible contaminants and with faster technologies.

"By supporting research into innovative technologies and approaches to rapidly detect and identify viruses, bacteria, and chemicals in drinking water, we can prevent illness," said George Gray, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development. "These new projects will expand the toolkit available to those on the front lines of protecting our nation's drinking water and public health."

In the U.S., it is often difficult to link the incidence of waterborne diseases with their exact causes, due to the need for ever more sophisticated tools to monitor waterborne contaminants, the EPA announcement said. The newly-funded research projects will help improve the ability to pinpoint potential problems using innovative new technologies and methods, it added.

Grant recipients:

* Battelle Memorial Institute, Pacific Northwest Division, Richland, Wash., $595,927 – to develop a system for quantifying and removing noroviruses -- viruses that cause gastrointestinal illness
* Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penn., $599,999 – to develop a field-portable sensor device that can quickly detect algal toxins or potential toxin-producers in source, finished, and system waters.
* Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $599,996 – to create novel, rapid methodologies for detecting pathogenic waterborne microbial contaminants that can be applied both locally and nationally. Information relevant to water quality and associated health risks on the Crow Reservation will be obtained.
* Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga., $600,000 – to develop a rapid and sensitive sensor that can be used in the field to detect, identify and measure cyanotoxins, poisons produced by blue-green algae.
* University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., $600,000 – to design a new technology using the metal lanthanum to detect low levels of viruses and bacteria in water.
* Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass., $508,494 – to establish fiber-optic genosensors that can rapidly detect and count multiple species of cyanobacteria in both laboratory and field settings.

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