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Consortium seeks grant for water-testing devices Gene Schabath
The Detroit News


  HARRISON TOWNSHIP -- Using sophisticated marine radar and hand-held water monitoring systems, scientists say they will be able to instantly test water quality and detect harmful pollution levels.
   This space-age technology could be in place as early as this summer on Lake St. Clair, said Guy Meadows, a professor in the University of Michigan Department of Naval Architect and Marine Engineering.
   U-M is part of a consortium of four universities that have been working on the technology. That consortium, which includes Eastern Michigan, Oakland University and Wayne State, has applied for a $3-million grant from the Michigan Coastal Management Program to fund the water monitoring program.
   The hand-held water monitoring project received a big boost Friday when the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee approved $5 million for development of the pollution detection system. The expenditure still has to be approved by the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
   "This will detect chemical, biological and polluting agents in drinking water and can be used for detecting pollutants in Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River," said Doug Martz, chairman of the Water Quality Board. The board has been fighting for five years for a monitoring system that would rapidly detect pollution in lakes and rivers.
   "This will mean monitoring results in minutes instead of 18 hours like it takes now," Martz said. "This will enable the health department to track down the sources of the pollution."
   Last year, there were 14 beach closings along Lake St. Clair due to high E. coli bacteria readings. New Baltimore beach had the most closings with 14, followed by Memorial Park in St. Clair Shores with three, Blossom Heath in St. Clair Shores with two, and Metropolitan Beach in Harrison Township, which was closed once.
   Macomb Health Department Director Thomas Kalkofen said the new technology will work kind of like a pregnancy test. "You can get readings on specific bacteria or chemicals in 15 minutes," he said.
   The rapid detection system would work in tandem with two radar units that would be placed in St. Clair Shores and the Grosse Pointes. The radar will track currents at 1,000 locations in Lake St. Clair.
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