EPA-funded research develops novel solution for removing Cryptosporidium from water supplies

Date released: Jun 29 2015, 8:00 AM

EPA-funded research develops novel solution for removing Cryptosporidium from water supplies

The EPA has published the results of significant collaborative research between Athlone Institute of Technology and National University of Ireland, Galway led by Professor Neil Rowan. This research has developed high-intensity pulsed light as a novel technology for disinfecting drinking water.

Dara Lynott, Deputy Director General of the EPA, said,

“We are all aware that high quality, safe, sufficient drinking water is essential to daily life, for example for drinking and in food preparation, and that finding solutions to threats to drinking water quality is an imperative. As well as being important for health, high quality water is vital for our tourism, industrial and agricultural sectors. This research has developed an innovative technology that addresses a key drinking water quality challenge and at the same time provides green economic opportunities for Ireland.”

Ireland has almost 1000 public water supplies, serving 82.1% of the population; the remainder of the population is supplied by group water schemes (6.5%), small private supplies (0.8%) and private wells (10.6%).  At the beginning of this year, more than 20,000 people - on 20 public water supplies – were affected by boil water notices.  The EPA’s current Remedial Action List (May 2015) lists 36 schemes as having “Inadequate treatment for Cryptosporidium” serving 209,015 people.  The recent EPA drinking water report indicated that E.coli was detected in 10 public water supplies, 63 small private supplies and 32 private group water schemes in 2013.  Consequently, this research will be a timely addition to the work in solving these issues.

Professor Neil Rowan, Athlone Institute of Technology, lead investigator of this project, said,

“The development of this novel technology enhances our capacity to effectively treat drinking water that may be contaminated with harmful parasites and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Pulsed light constitutes a radically new means of both energy delivery and efficient ultraviolet disinfection. Pulses of ultraviolet-rich light can be delivered at up to 100 pulses per second causing irreversible damage to the treated waterborne Cryptosporidium parvum parasite, which is resistant to conventional chlorination. Pulsed Light constitutes a next generation approach to ultraviolet light disinfection.”

Professor Rowan continued,

 “For the first time, Dr Mary Garvey, lead postdoctoral research fellow, has also reported laboratory technologies that can assess the effectiveness of Pulsed Light disinfection for Cryptosporidium parvum in this study.”

The report, entitled Development of a pulsed light approach as a novel solution in drinking water treatment, includes new data on:

  • Pulsed light systems for disinfecting drinking water and in particular killing parasites such as Cryptosporidium. 
  • Reliable and repeatable methods to deploy this technology at full scale drinking water treatment scale plants. 

The research has been conducted in collaboration with Dr Eoghan Clifford from NUI Galway who is an international expert in wastewater treatment and management.
Key recommendations include:

  • Deploying Pulsed Light as a bolt-on technology will improve the destruction of harmful parasites that may not be eliminated or removed during conventional drinking water treatment processes.
  • Implementing this Pulsed Light technology should also be considered for private water supplies.

Professor Neil Rowan, concluded,

“This collaborative project embraces leading developments in science and engineering to safeguard our water resources, which are of critical importance for life and health for the people of Ireland.”

This research was conducted in the Bioscience Research Institute at Athlone Institute of Technology and in NUI Galway. The full report, Development of a pulsed light (PL) as a novel solution in drinking water treatment, is available on the EPA website. http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/research/water/research145developmentofapulsedlightapproachasanovelsolutionindrin.html

Further information:

EPA: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie
Athlone Institute of Technology: Brian Lynch, Communications and Marketing Manager, AIT Tel 090 644 2595/Mobile 087 122 0361/Email brianlynch@ait.ie

Notes to Editors:

The output of this project includes six peer reviewed research papers, new treatment and assessment methods, and increased awareness. It has built on capacity for – and developed new partnerships focused on – research in environment and health.

Pulsed UV light
Pulsed light (PL) is a non-thermal method of disinfection produced by storing electrical energy in a capacitor and releasing it as a short high-intensity pulse with a duration of between 1 μs and 0.1 s.  The pulsed flashes are 50,000 times the intensity of sunlight at the point of disinfection.
This study focuses on a novel approach to water disinfection using a PUV system as this PUV method has the potential to provide a broader range of UV wavelengths coupled with a better penetration rate than conventional UV systems.

Pulsed light constitutes a radically new means of both energy delivery and efficient ultraviolet disinfection as the pulsed flashes are 50,000 times the intensity of sunlight at the point of disinfection. Dr Mary Garvey, lead postdoctoral research fellow, has also reported in this study for the first time that use of complex laboratory-based cell culture and molecular biology tools can effectively assess and monitor Pulsed Light disinfection efficacy for Cryptosporidium parvum. This constitutes a breakthrough for waterborne parasitology as global research up to this point was limited to using laboratory mice to confirm efficacy of technologies.

This report highlights that Cryptosporidium parasites are efficiently destroyed by Pulsed Light in water and that Pulsed Light is an environmentally-friendly technology as no unwanted ecotoxicological by-products are generated as may be the case with some  conventional water sanitation approaches. Pulsed Light therefore constitutes a next generation approach to ultraviolet light disinfection, which has been used in the water industry for decades to destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.

EPA Drinking Water Report 2013

Link to EPA Drinking Water report published in Jan 2015 including details of public drinking water supplies in each Local Authority.

Other Related EPA Research Outputs

Research 137: Towards developing a Cryptosporidium monitoring protocol
The prevalence and persistence of Cryptosporidium – particularly with respect to drinking water supplies – is one of the key environment and health issues. This project was established to initiate the development of a national Cryptosporidium monitoring protocol.

Research 152: Cryptosporidiosis: Human, animal and environmental interface
This study investigated the monthly prevalence of Cryptosporidium in farm animals during March–June over two years in two catchments – the Liffey and Lough Gill – in the east and west of Ireland

Research 151: CapE-Capture, Extract, Amplify: A rapid method for monitoring large water volumes for pathogenic contaminants
This project focused on validating a rapid and convenient method for screening large volumes of water for the presence of Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC). Although most strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, VTEC strains produce a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.

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