Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 397, Issue 5, pp 1705–1714 | Cite as

A review of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins removal/inactivation in drinking water treatment

  • Judy A. WestrickEmail author
  • David C. Szlag
  • Benjamin J. Southwell
  • James Sinclair


This review focuses on the efficiency of different water treatment processes for the removal of cyanotoxins from potable water. Although several investigators have studied full-scale drinking water processes to determine the efficiency of cyanotoxin inactivation, many of the studies were based on ancillary practice. In this context, “ancillary practice” refers to the removal or inactivation of cyanotoxins by standard daily operational procedures and without a contingency operational plan utilizing specific treatment barriers. In this review, “auxiliary practice” refers to the implementation of inactivation/removal treatment barriers or operational changes explicitly designed to minimize risk from toxin-forming algae and their toxins to make potable water. Furthermore, the best drinking water treatment practices are based on extension of the multibarrier approach to remove cyanotoxins from water. Cyanotoxins are considered natural contaminants that occur worldwide and specific classes of cyanotoxins have shown regional prevalence. For example, freshwaters in the Americas often show high concentrations of microcystin, anatoxin-a, and cylindrospermopsin, whereas Australian water sources often show high concentrations of microcystin, cylindrospermopsin, and saxitoxins. Other less frequently reported cyanotoxins include lyngbyatoxin A, debromoaplysiatoxin, and β-N-methylamino-l-alanine. This review focuses on the commonly used unit processes and treatment trains to reduce the toxicity of four classes of cyanotoxins: the microcystins, cylindrospermopsin, anatoxin-a, and saxitoxins. The goal of this review is to inform the reader of how each unit process participates in a treatment train and how an auxiliary multibarrier approach to water treatment can provide safer water for the consumer.


Drinking water treatment Cyanotoxins Cyanobacteria 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judy A. Westrick
    • 1
    Email author
  • David C. Szlag
    • 1
  • Benjamin J. Southwell
    • 1
  • James Sinclair
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Environmental SciencesLake Superior State UniversitySault Ste MarieUSA
  2. 2.United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Groundwater and Drinking WaterCincinnatiUSA

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