UT College of Engineering News

Researcher receives grant to study removal of algal bloom toxins from drinking water sources

The National Science Foundation awarded a civil and environmental engineer at The University of Toledo a $224,937 grant to study a sustainable approach to water treatment and filtering toxins from harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Youngwoo Seo, associate professor of civil engineering and chemical and environmental engineering, will lead the three-year project titled “Engineering Biofilm Dynamics for Cyanotoxins in Biological Water Treatment.”



Seo is seeking to better understand how bacteria works in order to improve the filters that remove harmful toxins from drinking water.

“To protect the public from emerging contaminants like cyanotoxins in drinking water sources, various advanced water treatment processes are considered,” Seo said. “However, these processes commonly require high-energy demand and operation cost with proper waste management. This project is exploring a sustainable treatment approach using bacterially active filters to remove toxins from harmful algal blooms.”

“There could not be a more timely and more important research project to award than this,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “Lake Erie is under constant threat of toxic algal blooms, and we need to find a more sustainable way to treat the water. Our entire region — our economic future and our livelihood — relies on ongoing research such as this at The University of Toledo.”

According to the National Science Foundation grant, “Research emphasis will be placed on understanding how the bacterial biofilm formation and activity can be enhanced and maintained by engineered approaches such as bioaugmentation and bio-stimulation in order to improve performances of biological filtration systems for cyanotoxin removal.”

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