June of last year proved to be prime time for harmful algal blooms, resulting in major human health, environmental, and economic problems across the country. Despite the historically colder and wetter conditions we’ve experienced so far in 2019, harmful algal blooms are not out of the question if summer conditions prove conducive to cyanobacteria growth.
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are naturally occurring components of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems. While algae and cyanobacteria provide aquatic communities with many benefits, as the old saying goes, “everything in moderation.” As temperatures rise and heat up slow-moving water replete with nutrients, these organisms can grow rapidly causing “blooms.” Blooms become problematic because algae and cyanobacteria also produce harmful compounds, such as cyanotoxins and aroma compounds, which pose health risks to humans and animals. When blooms threaten human and environmental health, they are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs).
The US EPA included nine cyanotoxins in the fourth round of its Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4), in addition to a total microcystin test. The cyanotoxin chemical contaminants listed are: microcystin-LA, microcystin-LF, microcystin-LR, microcystin-LY, microcystin-RR, microcystin-YR, nodularin, anatoxin-a, and cylindrospermopsin. Babcock Laboratories is fully accredited to perform all UCMR 4 analyses, including these cyanotoxin chemical contaminants which require EPA Methods 546 (ELISA), 544, and 545. Babcock Labs will soon be accredited for these methods through ORELAP, having completed all criteria necessary to add them.