January 2011, Vol. 23, No.1


Ladder system helps eel conservation

Have you ever seen an eel climb a ladder? The owners of the Robert Moses–Robert H. Saunders Power Dam, which spans the St. Lawrence River at the U.S. and Canadian border, installed an eel ladder that gives the creatures safe passage around the dam. Without the ladder, the dam impedes the eels’ migration from the ocean to the upper portions of the river.

Ontario Hydro, owner of the Canadian portion of the dam, and New York Power Authority, owner of the U.S. portion of the dam, installed the 56-m (182-ft) eel ladder.

The ladder helps conservation efforts for the American eel while maintaining power to locals, according to a case study by Mike Silliman of Deadline Solutions (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Tony Paine of Kepware Technologies (Portland, Maine). Biologists at the dam track flow data using an electronic system to ensure adequate water flow in the ladder, which is necessary for successful and safe eel migration. Eel counts and water flows are collected, analyzed, and recorded for future reference.

“This structure will help our efforts to conserve the American eel by passing juveniles upstream where they may live to be 30 years old before returning to the ocean to spawn,” said Michael Thabault, assistant regional director of Ecological Services at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in the case study. 

Canary sings water warnings

It’s not in a coal mine, but this canary still provides early warning of dangerous conditions. Water utilities have a new tool to help them gauge their response to variations in water quality readings. Canary software, developed by scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), can detect pesticides, metals, and pathogens and help distinguish between natural variation in water quality measurements and hazardous contamination.

If contamination is detected, the system sends an alarm indicating when water utilities should take steps to investigate and respond to potential contamination, as well as enhance day-to-day water quality management, according to an EPA news release.

The first utility to pilot the software, Greater Cincinnati Water Works, has been using Canary since 2007. New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, as well as Singapore, also are evaluating the software. The software works in conjunction with a network of water quality sensors to detect contamination and more accurately assess when and how to respond, the release says.

In July 2010, EPA and DOE researchers received the R&D Magazine R&D 100 award, which recognizes top high-technology products of the year. Canary is a free software tool available to drinking-water utilities. For more information, see www.epa.gov/nhsrc/news/news122007.html.


© 2011 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.