New water testing methods are needed – MESTECH director

29 Mar 2011

The director of new DCU-based MESTECH research centre has called for the adoption of continuous testing methods which could help safeguard Ireland’s drinking water and blue flag beaches.

New technologies that can test water quality every 10 minutes and upload the results to the web in real time must be adopted as an early warning system against e-coli breakouts as a result of contaminated drinking water and to help preserve the quality of Irish bathing beaches, according to the director of the Marine and Environmental Sensing Technology Hub research centre (MESTECH) at Dublin City University.

Prof Fiona Regan said the technologies now exist to replace the current method of spot sampling that tests every few weeks with a system that would test water quality every 10 minutes and be uploaded to the web in real time. 

MESTECH is involved in developing a new generation of sensing systems. The centre was officially launched today by Yvonne Shields, the director of strategic planning and development in the Marine Institute, which provided it with €2.4m in funding in 2007 as a Beaufort Award under Sea-Change, the national strategy for marine research, knowledge and innovation.

Regan said it’s now possible to provide an effective early warning system for e-coli contamination of drinking water which would help prevent gastroenteritis outbreaks and help source causes of pollution. It would be equally effective for monitoring Ireland’s 74 blue-flag beaches and other bathing areas.

“These new technologies would enable Ireland to adopt a system that was not only widely distributed but provided continuous measurement in real time,” said Regan. “This would provide a far more accurate and up-to-date water monitoring system than the current procedure of having to physically go out, take your samples and come back to the lab in order to measure it and get a result.”

Regan reported the centre was working on developing a continual sensing bacterial test. She said technologies are being tested in Poolbeg Marina to monitor water every 15 minutes, and could be adapted as early warning methods for pollution.

She added she expected the new MESTECH centre to continue to work with industry and also to assist in environmental policy formation by changing current legislation on doing water quality checks.

“We are working with the Marine Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Public Works to show them the advantages of continuous monitoring,” Regan concluded.