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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Selected for $500K EPA Research Grant

Release Date: 09/17/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Sept. 17, 2008) – The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Woods Hole, Mass. has received a $508,494 grant for the development and use of a new technology to detect and count harmful algal bloom cells in drinking water. Woods Hole is one of five recipients of EPA research grants to improve the detection of known and emerging drinking water contaminants, including potent toxins produced by blue-green algae.

The new technology being evaluated employs a fiber optic array system which can deliver rapid, sensitive methods that accurately identify and count harmful algal species in a given water body. This will be the first device that is able to count multiple species in a water body in the same sample and that can be deployed in small, bench-top instruments for automated detection.

Having a technology system that is automated takes science one step closer to the goal of having a warning system capable of detecting and providing an early warning of organisms that threaten public and ecosystem health.

“EPA’s research into new technologies to rapidly detect contaminants in drinking water will help prevent illnesses,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This research at Woods Hole will help expand the toolkit available to those on the front lines of protecting our nation’s drinking water and public health.”

Most Americans get their drinking water from large scale municipal water systems that rely on surface water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, which is why keeping our drinking water safe from pathogens and other contaminants is a high EPA priority.

In the U.S., both the incidence of waterborne diseases and the reasons for disease outbreaks are often uncertain or unknown. Additionally, conventional approaches used to detect contaminants in water that cause disease can take several weeks to complete. These newly funded research projects will help improve our ability to pinpoint potential problems using innovative new technologies and methods.

EPA regulates the quality of the nation's drinking water by issuing and enforcing safe drinking water standards. EPA also protects the nation's drinking water by safeguarding our watersheds and regulating the release of pollutants into the environment.

More information:
Grant to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (

New England's Drinking Water (