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Watershed Projects

Genetic Algal Testing

Furthering international relationships developed during the Akron Global Water Alliance (AGWA) International Algal Toxin Conference, a two day conference that was hosted by Akron in April of 2015, The City of Akron Water Bureau has recently partnered with an Australian company, Diagnostic Technology.

This partnership has been developed to test a product at Lake Rockwell Reservoir, the drinking water supply for the nearly 300,000 residents of the City of Akron and surrounding neighborhoods, which looks at the genetic makeup of potentially harmful algal blooms (HAB).

This product, called Phytoxigene (http://www.phytoxigene.com), uses DNA analysis to determine if the algae present in the lake has the genetic ability to create the harmful toxins that caused a Do Not Drink advisory for drinking water to be issued for two days to nearly 500,000 people in the Toledo area. 

The City of Akron will be the first water system in the United States to use Phytoxigene as a prescreening tool to help make decisions for reservoir management and water treatment.

Knowing ahead of time if the algae in the lake poses the threat to create toxins gives the leadership team at Akron Water Supply the time and confidence to make decisions to prevent harmful algal blooms and to prevent toxins from contaminating the drinking water.

Akron Mayor Jeff Fusco said “This is another example of Akron’s continued efforts to capitalize on global opportunities to take advantage of the latest technology to improve Akron’s water quality.”

Algae Scanner

It is nicknamed “The Gun” because you simply point it at the water and press.

Akron water officials have been testing the hand-held device — properly called a Water Insight Spectrophotometer or the WISP-3 — for the past two weeks to measure algae levels, instantly, at Lake Rockwell, the city’s main drinking-water reservoir near Kent.

So far, so good, said Jeffrey Bronowski, the city’s Water Supply Bureau manager, and Jessica Glowczewski, Akron’s watershed superintendent.

“We feel real good about it,” Glowczewski said. “It offers more flexibility in collecting samples.”

The device, made in the Netherlands under the direction of two Dutch companies, measures light from the sky and light reflected off the water’s surface. An algorithm then gauges algae and chlorophyll levels, plus total suspended metals and the water’s transparency. Corresponding numbers flash on a LED display.

A primary goal: detect high levels of blue-green algae that can affect taste, produce unpleasant odors and, in extreme instances, trigger potentially dangerous toxins that threaten the supply of drinking water.

Bronowski and Glowczewski said that being able to detect changes in algae levels instantly means Akron water officials could make needed adjustments to the reservoirs and to the water plant more quickly if problems do arise. That would be a big plus, they said.

Currently, Akron collects water samples twice a day from the 769-acre reservoir. Staffers take the samples to the laboratory at the city’s water treatment plant, north of Kent, and conduct algae counts. Bronowski called it a time-consuming and labor- intensive process.

Benefits of device

Glowczewski said readings from the device are being matched to readings coming from samples Akron water staffers are taking. Recent testing showed no presence of algal toxins, Bronowski said.

Any staffer can use the WISP-3, he said. No special training or qualifications are required.

Other benefits of the device: Using it keeps staffers away from the threat of toxins because they don’t have to come in contact with the water to take a reading, and measurements can be taken from the shore or from a boat.

Some minor drawbacks: Testing cannot be done in the rain or in shadows, and the bottom of the reservoir cannot be visible.

The device also is not cheap, costing up to $30,000. The city has not made a purchase but strongly is considering one, Bronowski said.

Business opportunity

Preliminary discussions between the city of Akron and the Dutch companies behind the device — developer Water Insight B.V. and marketer BlueLeg Monitor B.V. — could result in the equipment being manufactured in Akron, said Samuel D. DeShazior, Akron’s deputy mayor of economic development. That could lead to royalty payments and new jobs.

Akron and the Dutch companies joined forces in April at a conference on algal toxins that the city hosted.

The testing in Akron is the first venture into the United States for the device, said Patrick Sutman, a spokesman for the Dutch companies. Perhaps 30 of the units have been sold in Europe, he said.

Akron also is working with researchers from the University of Akron to determine if the device could be used to test treated water for algae inside the city’s water treatment plant, Bronowski said.

Original article here.

Sign Project

In Spring of 2013, with the collaboration of the Ohio EPA, Portage Parks District, and Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners, AWD embarked on The Watershed Signage Project to promote awareness of our vital streams by labeling them with signs where they intersect with common roadways.

This project was developed in response to surveys conducted by the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District in 2004 and 2007 that indicated a worrisome lack of public awareness regarding watersheds. These surveys concluded that on average only 26% of residents knew which watersheds they lived in. The Watershed Signage Project aims to increase that number and alert citizens to the fragile water system that we all rely on.

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