EPA and Partners Launch Challenge to Develop Low-Cost Water Toxicity Sensors

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and partners launched the Water Toxicity Sensor Challenge. The challenge calls on innovators to develop a sensor that can identify whether there are chemical pollutants and natural toxins in various types of water faster and cheaper than current lab methods. The goal of the challenge is to design a concept for a sensor that can detect a waterborne contaminant.

“Low-cost sensors that can quickly help determine toxicity in water are important to water resource managers across the country,” says Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This type of sensor can be used by anyone to provide real-time information and help identify whether water treatment is effective.”

Certain chemicals can disrupt normal biological processes which can lead to harmful health effects. The challenge calls for a water sensor that can detect the activation of toxic pathways by these harmful chemicals.

In addition to ensuring that drinking water is clean, this type of sensor could evaluate the effectiveness of wastewater treatment, as well as evaluate other waterbodies. These kinds of sensors would be useful to federal and state government, water utilities, environmental organizations, the water quality research community, Tribes and local agencies.

The challenge is divided into two stages. In Stage 1, which closes on July 20, teams will submit designs for a toxicity sensor.  There will be up to three winners of Stage 1, with each winner or team receiving up to $15,000 each. In the second stage of the challenge, which will be open to both the winners of Stage 1 and any other interested individuals, solvers will be asked for a prototype demonstration.

The Water Toxicity Sensor Challenge is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, the Greater Cincinnati Water Works, and the Water Research Foundation.

For more information on the Water Toxicity Sensor Challenge:  https://www.epa.gov/innovation/water-toxicity-sensor-challenge


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