SOURCE: Blue Water Satellite

October 29, 2013 09:52 ET

Harmful Algae Toxin, Microcystin, Can Now Be Identified & Measured Using Algorithmically-Enhanced Satellite Imagery From Blue Water Satellite

BOWLING GREEN, OH--(Marketwired - Oct 29, 2013) - Blue Water Satellite, a Bowling Green, OH, company that uses advanced satellite imagery and patented image processing, announces it can now identify and measure the toxin, microcystin produced by some cyanobacteria. The new technology allows high accuracy determination of whether the microcystin toxin is above or below the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for safe recreational water use. Blue Water Satellite will be sharing more information on this at their booth #204 at the NALMS show in San Diego, October 30 through November 1, 2013. To see a powerful white paper on how this capability was achieved, click this link

The development of this satellite imaging tool is important because the effect of this toxin on humans can cause liver damage and several medical journals have reported linkages between cyanobacteria toxins and cancers, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's, ALS/Lou Gehrig's and Parkinson's diseases. People swimming, waterskiing, or boating in contaminated water can be exposed to microcystins. Microcystins may also accumulate in fish that are caught and eaten by people. There are numerous reports of pets and livestock dying after drinking water that was contaminated with microcystins.

While the presence of cyanobacteria/blue green algae/harmful algal blooms (HABs) has been easy to detect, the presence and levels of the toxin it can release -- microcystin -- has not. Government agencies, lake managers, and anyone responsible for water quality, or water safety now have a powerful tool for determining whether these toxins exceed World Health Organization guidelines.

"Our technology can achieve this because it detects the fluorescence change in satellite imagery to determine microcystin toxin levels above or below World Health Organization guideline levels," states Milt Baker, CEO of Blue Water Satellite. In recent testing, Blue Water Satellite's algorithm produced a precision of 98.8% and recall of 100%. A patent for this algorithm has been filed. "This new capability is truly a game-changer in water body management because our images can show the presence of microcystin across the entire lake -- as opposed to physical sampling methods that are limited to just several points. It's unprecedented capability for human health and safety in our water bodies," continued Baker.

Dr. Hea-Young Kim, a toxicologist with expertise in cyanobacteria toxins, set the scientific framework for the satellite imaging work and provides understanding on how Blue Water Satellite is able to detect microcystin. "The toxin is released when the cyanobacteria cell splits open (called Lysis). In addition to releasing the toxin, the cell releases its pigment, phycocyanin," states Dr. Kim. "The extracellular level of the fluorescent pigment phycocyanin in the surface water provides a highly sensitive and specific prediction of microcystin correlated with toxin concentrations. This finding has been demonstrated in replicated scientific studies," continued Dr. Kim. A copy of Dr. Kim's white paper on this subject can be found at

Cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae, or harmful algal blooms, (HABs) produces the green slime seen on the surface of lakes. According the U.S. EPA, the percentage of water bodies considered to be in a eutrophic condition (a condition that favors the formation of harmful algal blooms) has gone from 10-20% in 1972 to over 50% today. 

"Because of global warming and increased nutrients, the cyanobacteria blooms are getting worse," continued Baker. "That's why this new imaging capability is so important. It's a warning... an alert that confirms the presence of microcystin toxins. Our images will immediately tell you where in the water body the levels are above or below World Health Organization standards."

With the increase of eutrophic water bodies in the U.S., the safety importance of detecting microcystin levels will become increasingly important. 

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