John Peckenham, University of Maine
And Primary Collaborators:
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences: Roessler,
Sewall Engineering Company: Ferketic.
Critical Need. The protection of public water supplies is an important component of homeland security. Many sensors and analytical procedures are available to monitor for one or a few potential contaminants. Nevertheless, the comprehensive and selective detection of chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants in drinking water supplies is not feasible given the nearly infinite variety of potential contaminants. A practical solution would be to deploy simple “indicator” monitors that are sensitive to multiple contaminants and system stressors. The challenge is to develop a monitoring process that is sufficiently non-specific that many contaminants can be detected, while being robust enough to avoid false-positive events.
This proposal for SWWAT (Source Water Warning and Analysis Technology) utilizes existing water monitoring technology, deployed on modified platform technology, to provide an early-warning alarm. Under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, Congress has directed community water systems that serve a population of more than 3,300 people to assess the vulnerability of their system to terrorist attacks. The technology we propose to develop is consistent with the charge given the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Act to develop methods to prevent, detect, and respond to the introduction of chemical, biological or radiological contaminants into water supplies. The best, most cost-effective, solution is to deploy simple “indicator” monitors that are sensitive to multiple contaminants.
Results and Benefits. This proposal for the development of Source Water Warning and Analysis Technology (SWWAT) utilizes existing water monitoring technology deployed on proven platform technology (GOMOOS, http://www.gomoos.org/), to provide an early-warning alarm. SWWAT will meet the need of pre-emptive monitoring, as well as developing a prototype of a commercial product for water utility water treatment plants, and for general pollution detection. SWWAT utilizes a naturally occurring phenomenon as the basis of its core technology: introduction of toxic contaminants into a water supply will kill or harm algae, resulting in changes in chlorophyll chemistry that can be recorded by fluorescence technology. The response in single-celled algae is rapid (seconds to minutes). Once change is detected, an alert from the system will quickly shut down a water supply until the cause was located and remedied. In addition to the proven fluorescence technology, SWWAT will add other sensor technology already being tested by other researchers at the University of Maine to enhance the specificity of the system.
The project will provide three levels of protection: 1) presence or absence alert (red light, green light); 2) significant change (system learns response of the source pond); and 3) spatial distributed response (monitor compares data from region to detect unusual changes). The Level 1 system can be used at a low cost in almost any situation. For example, the Level 1 prototype could be deployed quickly and cost-effectively at US military bases and deployment sites world-wide. The Level 2 system requires a learning period and the longer the monitor is deployed, the more sensitive it becomes. Protection of water supplies from terrorist threats is only one application of the system. An immediate use for this system would be providing real-time information on algae in source water supplies for drinking water treatment plants. Identifying and responding to algae is an important part of providing safe drinking water.
This project will yield a real-time system for deployment in drinking water reservoirs world-wide. The University of Maine will work with a manufacturer of fluorescence detectors to combine portable field measurement units with data recorders that beam their data using hard-wired or cell phone technology to a base station.