Great Lakes Region

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) Harmful Algal Blooms research team launched an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) in Lake Erie’s western basin in mid-July.  The ESP, named the ESPniagara and also fondly called the “lab in a can” due to its cylindrical shape, is able to analyze dangerous algal toxin levels much faster than they could be processed in a traditional laboratory setting.  The information gathered can then be used to warn municipal water intake and drinking water managers of potential public health threats earlier than before.

Researchers lower the robotic underwater laboratory into Lake Erie, where it will monitor algal toxins.

NOAA GLERL and CIGLR researchers launch the ESPniagara in western Lake Erie, where it now monitors summertime algal toxins. Image credit: NOAA GLERL.

There are 17 ESPs in use worldwide, but GLERL-CIGLR’s was the first to be deployed in any freshwater system.

Researchers received funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to purchase the $375,000 ESP, as a direct response to the 2014 drinking water crisis in the City of Toledo, Ohio.  Summertime algal blooms produced unsafe levels of a toxin called microcystin in the Toledo water supply, prompting city health officials to issue a “do not drink” advisory that left 400,000 residents without drinking water for three days.

The ESPniagara began daily testing of water samples near the City of Toledo on August 1, and is sending results to researchers in near real-time  — critical to protecting the public and preventing future water advisories.

To learn more, read the full article from The Monroe News here.

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