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“Lab in a can” to monitor Lake Erie before it’s dead again

a picture of the lab in a can
The ESPniagara, aka "lab in a can."

There are concerns that Lake Erie will experience the same kind of toxic cyanobacteria blooms this summer that caused Toledo’s water supply to be shut off three years ago.

Reseachers monitor Lake Erie to detect cyanobacteria blooms as early as possible, but it takes time to go out, gather samples, and then bring them back to the lab for analysis.

This year, however, a “lab in a can” is giving researchers a hand. 

“What this instrument does is it takes a sample of water, it concentrates it, it extracts all the toxins out of the water, and then analyzes and gives us a quantitative number for the amount of toxins in the water,” said Tim Davis, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. “It is a significant increase in our ability to have a near real-time toxin monitoring network in the lake.”

Davis joined Stateside to explain what causes Lake Erie’s toxic cyanobacteria blooms, why they’re dangerous to humans and animals, and how this tool will “put safeguards in place that will help continue to protect human health.”

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