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Robotic underwater lab helps track Lake Erie water toxins

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush
/
Michigan Radio
A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.

A robotic underwater laboratory has been deployed in Lake Erie to detect toxins produced by harmful algae that threaten city water supplies.

The project is intended to prevent recurrence of a 2014 tap water contamination crisis that prompted a do-not-drink order for more than 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio, and southeastern Michigan.

The device is positioned on the lake bottom, where it can provide about one day's notice if highly toxic water drifts toward the Toledo intake system.

The federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative paid $375,000 for the lab.

Timothy Davis of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor says Lake Erie will get two more of the devices next summer.

Data from the three labs will help produce short-term algal bloom forecasts for the area.

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