The Occurrence of Cyanobacterial Toxins in Lake Champlain

  • Gregory L. Boyer
  • Mary C. Watzin
  • Angela D. Shambaugh
  • Michael F. Satchwell
  • Barry H. Rosen
  • Timothy Mihuc
Conference paper


Cyanobacteria are common in the plankton of most lakes, including Lake Champlain. Certain species of cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to people and their pets. In 2000 and 2001, we examined the occurrence of potential toxin-producing species of cyanobacteria in Lake Champlain. Samples were collected from locations throughout the lake and at the intake locations for five water treatment plants. Drinking water is a potential route of exposure for the thousands of people who draw their drinking water from the lake. When toxin-producing species of cyanobacteria were found, samples were also collected for toxin analysis. Microcystins were measured using a combination of different assays including an enzyme-linked immunoassay or ELISA, inhibition of the protein phosphatase 1A, and by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Anatoxin-a was determined by HPLC and confirmed by HPLC coupled with mass spectroscopy. The PSP toxins (saxitoxin, neosaxitoxin, and gonyautoxins 1-4) were measured by HPLC with fluorescent detection.

At least six species of potential toxin producing cyanobacteria were commonly found in the Lake Champlain, including Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Anabaena flos-aquae and Microcystis aeruginosa. Microcystins were the predominate toxin and were observed at low levels in nearly half of the samples collected. Except for several samples collected in the north lake, microcystin concentrations were quite low, well below the 1 µg L−1 World Health Organization’s guideline for the protection of human health. Concentrations of anatoxin-a were likewise generally low, but when this toxin did occur, it sometimes reached levels that could potentially exceed threshold values affecting human health. Low levels of toxins were also detected in both raw and finished water samples collected from the water treatment plants. Highest concentrations of toxin were found in the treatment plants that have shallow intake pipes. Treatment plants with deeper water intakes showed lower concentrations of cyanobacterial toxins. The general occurrence of toxins suggests that additional research is needed to fully assess the risks of exposure for people.


High Performance Liquid Chromatography Water Treatment Plant Cyanobacterial Bloom Microcystis Aeruginosa Toxic Cyanobacterium 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory L. Boyer
    • 1
  • Mary C. Watzin
    • 2
  • Angela D. Shambaugh
    • 2
  • Michael F. Satchwell
    • 1
  • Barry H. Rosen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Timothy Mihuc
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, State University of New YorkCollege of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory, School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  3. 3.USDA-NRCSWatershed Science InstituteBurlingtonUSA
  4. 4.US Fish and Wildlife ServiceVero BeachUSA
  5. 5.Lake Champlain Research InstitutePlattsburgh State UniversityPlattsburghUSA

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