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Journal of Water and Health Vol 08 No 3 pp 455–465 © IWA Publishing 2010 doi:10.2166/wh.2009.207

Vulnerability of Quebec drinking-water treatment plants to cyanotoxins in a climate change context

Annie Carrière, Michèle Prévost, Arash Zamyadi, Pierre Chevalier and Benoit Barbeau

Département des Génies Civil, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Géologique et des Mines, C.P.6079, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3A7, Canada Tel.: (514) 340-4711 ext: 3727 Fax: 514 340-5918 E-mail: annie.carriere@polymtl.ca
Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 945 avenue Wolfe, Sainte-Foy, Québec G1V 5B3, Canada


Cyanobacteria are a growing concern in the province of Quebec due to recent highly publicised bloom episodes. The health risk associated with the consumption of drinking water coming from contaminated sources was unknown. A study was undertaken to evaluate treatment plants' capacity to treat cyanotoxins below the maximum recommended concentrations of 1.5 μg/L microcystin-LR (MC-LR) and the provisional concentration of 3.7 μg/L anatoxin-a, respectively. The results showed that close to 80% of the water treatment plants are presently able to treat the maximum historical concentration measured in Quebec (5.35 μg/L MC-LR equ.). An increase, due to climate change or other factors, would not represent a serious threat because chlorine, the most popular disinfectant, is effective in treating MC-LR under standard disinfection conditions. The highest concentration of anatoxin-a (2.3 μg/L) measured in natural water thus far in source water is below the current guideline for treated waters. However, higher concentrations of anatoxin-a would represent a significant challenge for the water industry as chlorine is not an efficient treatment option. The use of ozone, potassium permanganate or powder activated carbon would have to be considered.

Keywords: algal toxins; climate change; cyanobacteria; drinking water; ozone; powdered activated carbon

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