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EPA Science Matters: June 5, 2018

Sometimes there is a simple way to avoid the health effects of harmful algal blooms — just stay out of the water. But when that water serves as a drinking water source, just waiting it out can leave thousands without a basic necessity: clean, healthy water. That’s why EPA researchers are helping water treatment facilities keep the water flowing even in the face of harmful algal blooms.

In small estuaries of the Pacific Northwest, seasonal blooms of green macroalgae are primarily associated with natural nutrient input. This environment allowed EPA researchers to study the effects of macroalgal blooms on an ecosystem, without the additional influence of chemical co-contaminants that are often present in more populated areas. The results of the study will help researchers better understand the effects of nutrient pollution on important fishery species, like the heart cockle.

The Ouachita River in Louisiana is an essential source of navigation, recreation, agriculture, industry, and drinking water for surrounding communities. Funding is needed for critical infrastructure improvement in the lower Ouachita River to support maintenance of navigation, as well as the many other benefits people enjoy from the river. EPA scientists and staff are working with the cities of Monroe and West Monroe to identify the ways the river serves the community, highlight the beneficiaries of the proposed infrastructure funding, and make this information useful for decision making.  

Small, portable, low-cost air quality sensors are providing new opportunities to assess air quality. To assist local and state air quality managers, community groups, and others, EPA is evaluating and developing air sensor technologies and providing information on using and interpreting sensor data. EPA recently collaborated with the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center in California to study the performance of some of these sensors.