LIFE Project Cover Photo

Innovative technology for cyanobacterial bloom control

Reference: LIFE12 ENV/SI/000783 | Acronym: LIFE Stop CyanoBloom

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

Cyanobacteria can be found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat. Aquatic cyanobacteria are known for their extensive and highly visible blooms that can form in both freshwater and marine environments. The massive blooms can be toxic and frequently lead to the closure of recreational waters when spotted. Therefore, mass occurrence of cyanobacteria is a major health risk in the EU. Most of the cyanobacterial blooms produce highly-toxic cyanotoxins which pose a threat during mass occurrences, as the collapse of the bloom causes a release of cyanotoxins in the aquatic environment. Cyanobacterial blooms occur as a result of eutrophication of water bodies. Eliminating eutrophication is expensive and time consuming. It is therefore necessary to find a way of preventing blooms forming in spite of the condition of the water body.

Therefore, mass occurrence of cyanobacteria is a major health risk in the EU. Most of the cyanobacterial blooms produce highly toxic cyanotoxins which pose a threat during mass occurrences; the collapse of the bloom causes a release of cyanotoxins in the aquatic environment. Cyanobacterial blooms occur as a result of eutrophication of water bodies. Elimination of this cause is expensive and time consuming. It is therefore necessary to find a way of preventing blooms forming in spite of the conditions of the water body.


OBJECTIVES

The objective of the LIFE Stop CyanoBloom project was to demonstrate a new system for triggering lysis (break down) of cyanobacteria, decreasing its concentration and preventing mass blooming, to improve the ecological status of water bodies. The aim was to implement this new technology through a pilot device (a vessel) on two selected water bodies, not to eliminate the entire population of the bacteria but simply to prevent its mass occurrence. The project aimed to test new online sensors that determine concentrations, and detect certain physical and chemical parameters of cyanobacteria in water bodies. This system simultaneously transfers the measured data via a GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) network. The plan was to also enable the pilot device to collect and store samples for laboratory analysis.


RESULTS

The LIFE Stop CyanoBloom project developed and constructed two operational experimental vessels and service harbours, on Koseze pond and Lake Bled in Slovenia, for ongoing demonstrations of the technology for preventing cyanobacteria blooms, and its further development. The project team developed a system for live online representation of the monitoring results for cyanobacteria. When the pilot vessel is operating, it is possible to see on the project website its actual position and all of the recently measured data. The automated on-line monitoring approach showed that it has the potential to substantially reduce the need for laboratory determination of phytoplankton and related costs (to approximately one tenth of actual costs related to laboratory measurements), while significantly increasing the amount of data about the status of the water body.

During the project, the highly-innovative vessels were tested in controlled environments, in a laboratory and larger tanks, but not on the water bodies. The technology for detecting concentrations of cyanobacteria and for triggering lysis appeared to be working well. The tests confirmed that the concentrations of cyanobacteria decreased by over 90%. However, further evaluation of the potential lysogeny of cyanobacterial cells is needed to verify if the bacteriophages released from the destroyed cells produce the expected "chain reaction" effect and are actually infecting and killing the remaining cyanobacteria in the water.

Four patents regarding the proposed technology have been filled by members of the project team. The project also won two awards at the Slovenian Innovation Forum (first prize in the category of micro-enterprises and a special award for the innovation with a social impact). The development of a fully-autonomous vessel proved more difficult than originally envisioned, due to the sophisticated software and hardware needed to navigate the vessel, analyse water samples, trigger lysis of the cyanobacteria, and safely return to the service harbour. Particular challenges were docking in poor weather conditions and detecting swimmers in tourist areas. Therefore, the vessels currently operate (post-LIFE) as semi-autonomous vessels with human supervision and occasional assistance, but this still contributes to a more cost-effective monitoring of water bodies. Also, during the project, no significant increase in cyanobacteria populations were observed in the water bodies, so it was not possible to properly test the lysis-triggering device in the natural environment.

Potential environmental benefits include: early warnings via on-line monitoring of harmful bacterial and algal blooms; localised growth control of cyanobacteria populations with no chemicals added into the water; reduced toxicity risk (health and environmental) due to prevention of cyanotoxin release into water; improved biodiversity with prevention of cyanobacteria overgrowth; and energy savings due to renewable energy use from photovoltaics producing no emissions during the operation of the robotic vessel for cyanobacteria detection and control.

Project outcomes help implement the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) and Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC). Phytoplankton monitoring is becoming a key element in water quality assessment. The Bathing Water Directive, for example, stipulates that appropriate monitoring shall be carried out to enable timely identification of health risks. The proposed technology for automated monitoring of water bodies, being faster and more cost-effective than traditional approaches, could greatly facilitate efforts to improve water quality, and not only in EU Member States. Therefore, the potential for its commercialisation is good. The vessels can be easily transported to other water bodies, for a range of uses, for example, a fish farm in Serbia has expressed interest.

Cyanobacterial blooms threaten socio-economic infrastructure through the closure of recreational areas and fishing grounds that sustain commercial and tourism industries. Therefore, the projects technology could have considerable socio-economic benefits, including improved drinking water quality; better bathing water quality to boost income from tourism and leisure activities; higher fish-pond water quality to benefit aquaculture; and an early warning system to enable rapid responses to toxic algal blooms.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).

ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


Reference: LIFE12 ENV/SI/000783
Acronym: LIFE Stop CyanoBloom
Start Date: 01/07/2013
End Date: 31/12/2016
Total Budget: 1,300,963 €
EU Contribution: 648,792 €
Project Location:

CONTACT DETAILS


Coordinating Beneficiary: ARHEL projektiranje in inženiring d.o.o.
Legal Status: PCO
Address: Pustovrhova ulica 15, 1210, Ljubljana-Šentvid, Slovenia Slovenija
Contact Person: Marko GERL
Email: marko.gerl@arhel.si
Tel: +386 41 598455
Website: http://www.arhel.si


LIFE Project Map

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

THEMES

  • Human health protection
  • Water quality improvement

KEYWORDS

  • aquatic ecosystem
  • water quality improvement
  • pollution control
  • public health
  • water treatment

TARGET EU LEGISLATION

  • Directive 76/160 - Quality of bathing water (08.12.1975)

BENEFICIARIES

Name Type
ARHEL projektiranje in inženiring d.o.o. Coordinator
National Institute of Biology, Slovenia Participant
Obcina Bled, Slovenia Participant

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