Algal toxins and reverse osmosis desalination operations: Laboratory bench testing and field monitoring of domoic acid, saxitoxin, brevetoxin and okadaic acid
AuthorsSeubert, Erica L.
Caron, David A.
KAUST DepartmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division
Marine Science Program
Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThe occurrence and intensity of harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been increasing globally during the past few decades. The impact of these events on seawater desalination facilities has become an important topic in recent years due to enhanced societal interest and reliance on this technology for augmenting world water supplies. A variety of harmful bloom-forming species of microalgae occur in southern California, as well as many other locations throughout the world, and several of these species are known to produce potent neurotoxins. These algal toxins can cause a myriad of human health issues, including death, when ingested via contaminated seafood. This study was designed to investigate the impact that algal toxin presence may have on both the intake and reverse osmosis (RO) desalination process; most importantly, whether or not the naturally occurring algal toxins can pass through the RO membrane and into the desalination product. Bench-scale RO experiments were conducted to explore the potential of extracellular algal toxins contaminating the RO product. Concentrations exceeding maximal values previously reported during natural blooms were used in the laboratory experiments, with treatments comprised of 50 μg/L of domoic acid (DA), 2 μg/L of saxitoxin (STX) and 20 μg/L of brevetoxin (PbTx). None of the algal toxins used in the bench-scale experiments were detectable in the desalinated product water. Monitoring for intracellular and extracellular concentrations of DA, STX, PbTx and okadaic acid (OA) within the intake and desalinated water from a pilot RO desalination plant in El Segundo, CA, was conducted from 2005 to 2009. During the five-year monitoring period, DA and STX were detected sporadically in the intake waters but never in the desalinated water. PbTx and OA were not detected in either the intake or desalinated water. The results of this study demonstrate the potential for HAB toxins to be inducted into coastal RO intake facilities, and the ability of typical RO operations to effectively remove these toxins. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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