Sandia research focus on harmful algal blooms

Sandia National Laboratories researchers Todd Lane and Victoria VanderNoot have been awarded a research grant to develop a technology that can detect deadly toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Sandia National Laboratories researchers Todd Lane and Victoria VanderNoot have been awarded a research grant to develop a technology that can detect deadly toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET), a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of New Hampshire, is funding the project, which is based in Livermore, California.

To address the HAB problem, Lane and VanderNoot will employ laser-induced fluorescence and other separation methods inherent in Sandia’s µChemLab™ (“Micro” ChemLab) technology. Harmful algal blooms are widely acknowledged to be a severe coastal resource management issue, adversely affecting virtually every coastal region. Current methods for detecting the poisonous toxins characteristic of the blooms are cumbersome, require either expensive reagents or animal testing, or are unable to quantify toxins - critical information for managing shellfish beds. The technologies under development at Sandia would eliminate these problems.

“Today’s standard detection methods, frankly, are too slow and labor-intensive,” said Lane. “By the time the process is complete, it’s too late: shellfish beds are already toxic.” The ability to quickly sample organisms low on the food chain, Lane said, can provide an early warning system to help protect communities from exposure to toxins.

The Sandia research will focus on enhancing the early-warning capability of detection and is expected to lay the groundwork for the development of a reliable, cost-effective prototype to simultaneously analyze multiple HAB toxins in phytoplankton and/or shellfish in the field. Lane and his colleagues will aim to optimize the micro-separations process for a sub-set of relevant toxins, and establish the laboratory-based protocols for sample preparation. The long-term goal is to develop small, lightweight devices that could be fielded by oceanographers and marine biologists as part of their regular monitoring systems. The technologies developed under this effort will be equally well suited to detecting algal toxins in freshwater sources and complements other ongoing research at Sandia ( ).

Chicago awards watershed planning contract

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (district) initiated a comprehensive watershed-planning project for the region in order to reduce flooding and to protect the environment. As part of this important initiative to reduce the negative effects of stormwater-related challenges on the area, the district recently awarded CDM the first phase of a contract to perform watershed planning on the Little Calumet River in the southern portion of Cook County, Illinois, USA.

The CDM team will identify needs and develop recommendations for regional stormwater projects using watershed planning. Detailed watershed plans will include design criteria and requirements, data collection, hydrologic/hydraulic needs analysis, alternative development and cost/benefit evaluation, and parameters to be used for project prioritization. The team will also provide support to the district in its coordination with watershed planning councils and councils of governments. The information contained in the detailed watershed plans will be used to guide the stormwater management capital improvement program. CDM is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Major upgrade to help protect Chesapeake Bay

On Nov. 28, 2006, the Prince William County Service Authority signed Virginia’s largest wastewater treatment design-build contract, launching the design portion of an estimated US$150 million upgrade and expansion of the H.L. Mooney Water Reclamation Facility in Woodbridge, Virginia, USA.

The first phase of the planned expansion will significantly lower the amount of nitrogen released from the facility to three parts per million, a level that will be enforced by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) beginning January 1, 2011. The current DEQ regulation for effluent nitrogen levels is eight parts per million for wastewater treatment plants that, like the Mooney facility, discharge into the Potomac estuary. The expansion will also increase the amount of wastewater the plant can treat daily to allow for future development in Prince William County.

Excessive amounts of nitrogen have been known to spark expansive algae blooms in the Chesapeake Bay that can, among a number of effects, reduce the amount of sunlight that submerged aquatic vegetation needs to survive. Fish and other aquatic species may die when unconsumed algae sinks and is decomposed by bacteria that deplete oxygen from bottom waters.

The Mooney facility can currently treat 18 million gallons of inflow per day. Its capacity will increase to 24 million gallons per day by July 2010 when the first phase of the expansion is complete. The Service Authority has contracted with the design-build team of Pizzagalli Construction Company and the US consulting firm CDM to accomplish the project. Other upgrades to the facility and equipment will be completed in the second phase of the expansion, concluding the project in 2012.

Field Notes

USA: The US company Itron announced on Nov. 21, 2006, that it signed an agreement to acquire the outstanding capital stock of Flow Metrix, Inc. in a cash-for-stock merger. Flow Metrix develops and manufactures advanced leak detection systems for underground pipelines, which allow customers to reduce their unaccounted for water and improve efficiency.

The newest product from Flow Metrix is the MLOG™ leak detection system, a network of intelligent leak detecting sensors that use acoustics to monitor the entire water distribution system. A typical Flow Metrix installation includes a ratio of one MLOG sensor for approximately every ten water meters and uses Automated Meter Reading (AMR) systems to transmit leak information from underground pipes to the utility. MLOG software is used to analyze the data collected and provide the utility with intelligent analysis to pinpoint leaks.

USA: The Thunderbolt Town Council (Georgia) selected CH2M Hill OMI as its partner to operate, maintain and manage the town’s water, wastewater, sanitation and public works departments. Contractual details are being determined now with an anticipated start date of the first week in January 2007.

The consulting company operates 25 projects in the state of Georgia including nearby Hinesville, Richmond Hill and Effingham Country. Town employees that currently perform these services will be offered employment with CH2M Hill OMI. “We made sure that the contract requires CH2M Hill OMI to make employment offers to all employees, “said Thunderbolt Town Administrator Bob Thomson. “We also required the inclusion of an immediate raise for employees since they were due an increase in January.”

USA: ADS LLC of Huntsville, Alabama, acquired DWC Technologies, a wastewater flow service company that provides technologies and services for utility location, mapping, inspection, evaluation, and flow monitoring. In addition, ADS recently acquired Severn Trent Pipeline Services.

With the acquisition of DWC Technologies, ADS will add new infrastructure management services in the southeast including: GPS, Utility Location, and Mapping; Utility Inspection and Evaluation. The flow monitoring, I/I Analysis, and cMOM compliance services currently available from ADS will gain additional resources and expert personnel through the DWC acquisition. For more information visit

USA: The Hydraulic Institute (Parsippany, New Jersey) will present a one-day short course entitled “Pump System Optimization: Opportunities to Improve Life Cycle Performance” at the 23rd International Pump Users Symposium in Houston, Texas, on March 5, 2007 (

Currently available pump system modeling tools will be discussed, including the Pump System Improvement Modeling Tool (PSIM) that enables users to build models of pumping systems. The PSIM tool can be downloaded for free at the PSM website:

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