INL researchers develop an automated monitoring system for toxins found in drinking water

April 27, 2023

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are microscopic organisms found naturally in all types of water, such as ponds, lakes, water streams, rivers and wetlands. Bloom events may occur in stagnant or very slowly flowing water bodies when cyanobacteria grow excessively. Not all blooms are harmful, but some cyanobacteria can produce toxins that cause serious illness or death in livestock and wildlife.

Microcystin is one of the harmful toxins produced by cyanobacteria. Although microcystins may occur in fish, molluscs and shellfish from water bodies with cyanobacterial over-growth, human exposure to microcystins happens mainly through drinking water or recreational water bodies.

According to the EU Drinking Water Directive 2020, the monitoring of total microcystin-LR concentration is mandatory for drinking water, and it is highly recommended in any stagnant water.

INL researchers have developed an automated monitoring system for total microcystin-LR. This monitoring system has dedicated modules for sample preparation and toxin detection, it is powered by a battery (able to work without an operator for 4 weeks), it has very high sensitivity and it is remotely accessible through a cloud platform.

This novel electrochemical sensing platform avoids the multiple processing steps typically needed for standard microcystin-LR analysis in the laboratory and provides an early warning system for remote monitoring in water.

INL strives to develop and deploy integrated and digital-based solutions for the comprehensive monitoring and selective elimination of water contaminants. This monitoring system was jointly developed by researchers from the Water Quality and Technology Engineering Groups.