Industry best practice manual for water quality management and sterilisation on-farm

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Extracellular cyanotoxin treatment

Performance goal: Minimise risk from blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and their toxins.
Description: There are many different varieties of blue-green algae that can release toxins that can cause liver, kidney and nervous system damage and have severe health implications for meat chickens.

Toxins and other metabolites can be described as either intracellular (in a live cell) or extracellular (external to the cell). Extracellular metabolites can be released during stress, as by-products of intracellular reactions or released from dead cells.

Many of the conventional treatments that remove live algal cells are ineffective for extracellular toxin removal due to their smaller size. It should be noted that the treatment of blue-green algae with algicides or disinfectants, will initially cause an increase in the toxin levels due to the toxins being released from dead cells.

Toxins can be inactivated with oxidant disinfection; however, the effectiveness depends on the toxin and disinfectant type. The ADWG only has a guideline value for microcystins. However, other toxins are produced from blue-green algae, so this may not be the most ideal indicator for all blue-green algae.

To allow for targeted inactivation of toxins, it is recommended that blue-green algae species and toxins are identified. This disinfection performance criterion is ideally measured after all pre-treatment performance criteria have been meet and water has been disinfected.
Performance criteria: Risks from blue-green algae controlled.

If algae toxins have been identified as a problem:

Best practice level: microcystins: 0–1.3μg/L, species and toxin identified

Maximum acceptable level: microcystins: 1.3μg/L
Minimum requirements
Disinfection concentration is increased to a concentration that will inactivate toxins.
Best practice options
Species and toxin are identified.
A disinfectant is used that is effective against the species and toxin identified. See Tables 21 and 22 (below) for a comparison of the effectiveness of treatments against cyanotoxins.

Table 21. Extracellular cyanotoxin disinfection treatment processes and relative effectiveness (reproduced from D'Anglada, 2019)

Treatment processRelative effectiveness
Potassium permanganateEffective for oxidizing microcystins and anatoxins. Further research is needed for cylindrospermopsin. Not effective for oxidising saxitoxin.
OzoneVery effective for oxidizing microcystins, anatoxin-a, and cylindrospermopsin. Not effective for oxidising saxitoxin.
ChloraminesNot effective.
Chlorine dioxideNot effective at doses typically used in drinking water treatment.
Free ChlorineEffective for oxidising microcystins as long as the pH is below 8. Effective for oxidising cylindrospermopsin and saxitoxin. Not effective for oxidising anatoxin-a.
Advanced oxidation

(UV radiation with ozone or hydrogen peroxide)
UV radiation alone is not effective at oxidising microcystins and cylindrospermopsin at doses typically used in drinking water treatment. When UV radiation is coupled with ozone or hydrogen peroxide (called ‘advanced oxidation’), the process is effective at oxidising anatoxin-a, cylindrospermopsin, and with high UV doses, microcystins.

Table 22. Disinfection treatment effectiveness for specific extracellular microcystins, cylindrospermopsin, anatoxin and saxitoxin toxin removal (reproduced from Greenstein, 2019)

Free chlorineModerateEffectiveNoEffective
Chlorine dioxideNoNoNoUnknown
Potassium permanganateEffectiveNoModerateNo
Advanced oxidation processes (AOP)EffectiveEffectiveEffectiveUnknown
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