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USEPA Announces Finalized Clean Water Rule

Federal Fluoride Recommendation Lowered

MPCA Report Reveals Water Quality Concerns

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USEPA Issues Health Advisory for Algal Toxins

algae

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has released health advisory values that States and utilities can use to protect residents from elevated levels of algal toxins in drinking water. Health advisories are not regulations, but provide technical guidance to help state and local officials and managers of water systems protect public health. They identify concentrations of contaminants above which adverse health effects are possible and provide testing methods and treatment techniques.

Algal blooms in rivers, lakes, and bays sometimes produce harmful toxins. USEPA estimates that between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to algal toxin contamination. “Nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms are among America’s most serious and growing environmental challenges. We will work closely with our partners at the state and local levels on monitoring, treating, and communicating about the toxins, as well as addressing the sources of nutrients that fuel these harmful algal blooms,” says USEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a release.

The USEPA's health advisory values for algal toxins recommend 0.3 micrograms per liter for microcystin and 0.7 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin as levels not to be exceeded in drinking water for children younger than school age. For all other ages, the health advisory values for drinking water are 1.6 micrograms per liter for microcystin and 3.0 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin. Potential health effects from longer exposure to higher levels of algal toxins in drinking water include gastroenteritis and liver and kidney damage. The health advisory values are based on exposure for 10 days. While briefly exceeding these advisory levels may not indicate an immediate emergency, USEPA recommends utilities use treatment techniques to lower levels as quickly as possible.

Steps that can protect the public from algal toxins in drinking water include:

  • Watching for harmful algal blooms in water bodies used as a source of drinking water.
  • Monitoring source water and drinking water for detections of algal toxins.
  • Treating drinking water as necessary to reduce and remove algal toxins.
  • Notifying the public that children younger than school age should not drink or water should be boiled if levels are above 0.3 micrograms per liter for microcystin and 0.7 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin.
  • Notifying the public that no one should drink or water should be boiled if levels are above 1.6 micrograms per liter for microcystin and 3.0 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin.

The USEPA will seek input from stakeholders on the recommended actions and other information the Agency can provide to best support states and utilities in addressing algal toxins in drinking water. Based on input, USEPA may provide additional technical support documents before the peak of algal bloom season.

Meanwhile, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation (WRF) have released a guide to help water utility managers detect and treat cyanotoxins. "A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Cyanotoxin” addresses cyanotoxin occurrence, source water management, and treatment strategies. Cyanotoxins are typically linked to cyanobacteria, also referred to as blue-green algae, that are present in lakes and reservoirs. USEPA says cyanobacteria blooms can be harmful to the environment, animals, and human health. There have been many documented reports of dog, bird, and livestock deaths throughout the world as the result of consumption of surface water with cyanobacterial blooms. In humans, symptoms such as fever, headaches, abdominal distress, and allergic reactions have been attributed to acute recreational exposure to cyanobacterial blooms and cyanotoxins.

 

If you have any questions concerning the content of this newsletter,
please contact Heather Syverson at 701-364-9111 or Heather.Syverson@ae2s.com.
 
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