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Keywords:

  • Microcystins;
  • cyanotoxins;
  • intoxications;
  • potable water sources;
  • eutrophication;
  • water treatment plants;
  • interventions;
  • resource poor

ABSTRACT

In freshwater, harmful cyanobacterial blooms threaten to increase with global climate change and eutrophication of surface waters. In addition to the burden and necessity of removal of algal material during water treatment processes, bloom-forming cyanobacteria can produce a class of remarkably stable toxins, microcystins, difficult to remove from drinking water sources. A number of animal intoxications over the past 20 years have served as sentinels for widespread risk presented by microcystins. Cyanobacterial blooms have the potential to threaten severely both public health and the regional economy of affected communities, particularly those with limited infrastructure or resources. Our main objectives were to assess whether existing water treatment infrastructure provides sufficient protection against microcystin exposure, identify available options feasible to implement in resource-limited communities in bloom scenarios and to identify strategies for improved solutions. Finally, interventions at the watershed level aimed at bloom prevention and risk reduction for entry into potable water sources were outlined. We evaluated primary studies, reviews and reports for treatment options for microcystins in surface waters, potable water sources and treatment plants. Because of the difficulty of removal of microcystins, prevention is ideal; once in the public water supply, the coarse removal of cyanobacterial cells combined with secondary carbon filtration of dissolved toxins currently provides the greatest potential for protection of public health. Options for point of use filtration must be optimized to provide affordable and adequate protection for affected communities. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.