Supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), Professor Tsair-Fuh Lin and his research team at National Cheng Kung University have developed novel, integrated technology for early-warning monitoring and treatment of cyanobacteria, cyanotoxins, and T&O compounds in drinking water sources and water treatment plants. This integrated technology provides more precise and faster monitoring, and better treatment efficiency for cyanobacteria and metabolites in drinking water systems, thus enables better protection of drinking water quality and public health. This technology not only improves the quality risk estimation for cyanobacteria and metabolites and significantly reduce the turn-over time, but also better predict the chemical dosages required to control the problem. The technology has the potential to be used in many other environmental fields, such as wastewater and water recycling plants, groundwater contaminated sites, and aquaculture industry, in which microorganisms are the important components of the engineered or ecological systems.
In 2016, United Nations has announced 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Water and Sanitation, one of the SDGs, aims to have safe drinking water for all people on the earth by 2030. This SDG indicates that drinking water quality has become an important global issue. Lakes and reservoirs are important source waters for many countries, and they provide more than 60% of public water supply for Taiwan. However, due to the difficulty of catchment management, many drinking water reservoirs suffer from nutrient pollution, leading to eutrophication and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) overgrowth. Many cyanobacteria produce harmful and unpleasant metabolites, such as toxins and taste and odour (T&O) compounds. These compounds pose risks to the safety and consumer satisfaction of drinking water and increase the difficulty for water treatment plants operation.
Rapid Quantification Technology for Harmful Cyanobacteria, Cyanotoxins, and T&O Compounds
This technology greatly improves the precision and reduces the turn-over time for monitoring by integrating chemical, optical, immunoassay, and biomolecular methods, giving more response time for the management teams at reservoirs and water utilities. The technology has been successfully applied in 29 Taiwan’s reservoirs and waterworks, with more than 500 samples collected. After sample collection, 32-96 samples can be analyzed on-site simultaneously, with the results available within 3 hours. The new technology generates more specific data for risk assessment on cyanotoxin and T&O episodes, and allows for longer response time for reservoir and water utility managers when cyanobacteria issues occur. The technology was sponsored by MoST for technology development, co-sponsored by Water Resource Agency (WRA) for field applications in reservoirs in Taiwan, and supported by MoST, Taiwan Water Corporation (TWC), China Ecotech Corporation (CEC), Mapua University for field applications in Laguna de Bay in Philippines. In addition, the technology was also tested in a few other countries, including US, Australia, and Thailand.
Source Water and Water Treatment Technologies
Chemical oxidation is one of the most commonly used processes for controlling cyanobacteria and metabolites in source and drinking water treatment. It is one of the few that can control and remove cyanobacteria cells, cyanotoxins, and T&O compounds at the same time. With the support from MoST, Prof. Lin’s team has deeply studied the effect of oxidants on cell integrity of cyanobacteria, and metabolite release and degradation in water systems for many years. They successfully developed modeling techniques to precisely predict the cell integrity and intracellular and extracellular concentrations of toxins and T&O compounds during applications of different oxidants into cyanobacteria-laden water. The modeling approach provides a good basis for engineering application for the control of cyanobacteria and metabolites in source water control and water treatment. The methodologies and models developed by Prof. Lin’s team were published in several international leading journals and were the core component of several international collaboration projects.
Prof. Lin leads an academia-industry joint water quality research team to explore the opportunities for exporting the developed water quality technologies. Funded by MoST, a joint water quality research and innovation center (Taiwan-Philippines Joint Water Quality Research and Innovation Center) has been established in Mapua University, Manila, Philippines in 2017, with the support from TWC and CEC. The center is aiming to help Filipino partners to solve the source and drinking water quality issues in Manila and the Philippines. In the last 10 years, the NCKU research team has executed 11 international funded projects. The sponsors include governments, universities, foundations, and industries from Australia, Macao, the Philippines, Thailand, and US, with budget of more than 270 thousand US dollars.
Prof. Tsair-Fuh Lin and Dr. Yi-Ting Chiu
Department of Environmental Engineering, National Cheng Kung University
Mr. Hong Cheng
Department of Engineering and Technologies
Ministry of Science and Technology