UT researchers develop technology to naturally reduce microcystin toxicity

UT researchers keeping water clean

TOLEDO (WTOL) - Since 2014, associate professor Jason Huntley’s lab in the UT Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology has been focused on finding a natural filter to keep microcystin out of our drinking water.

Microcystin is the toxin found in harmful algal blooms and what caused our water crisis.

“We had a crazy idea that there might be bacteria in the lake that can use the toxin as an energy source,” said Huntley.

So his team started collecting harmful algal bloom samples to bring back to the lab. The researchers fed the samples microcystin and then found bacteria that could degrade that microcystin until it was no longer toxic. So, a natural purifier of sorts.

“The city of Toledo does a great job of removing the toxin when it is present in our water. But as you know from our water bills, we do spend quite a bit of money with that whole treatment process. This is completely natural," Huntley said.

Huntley said we’re still more than a year away from the research actually going into practice. Permitting through the Ohio EPA would have to be approved first.

The city of Toledo said the findings could be a great tool in protecting our water.

“We really like it. The potential applications, you can potentially just put it in the lake, seed it in the lake. Or we can put it somehow into our treatment process. We’re already effectively managing microcystin and this could be another barrier we can put in there,” said Collin Park Water Treatment Plant Administrator Andy McClure.

Huntley’s lab holds a provisional patent on this technology and he says hopefully it can be used in other parts of the country and world.

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