A new web-based tool, the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS), has been released to simplify determining the cause of contamination in impaired rivers, streams and estuaries.

The tool provides a standardised and easily accessible system to help scientists find, use and share information to determine the causes of aquatic impairment. Causal analyses look at the effect of a specific substance (such as fine sediments, nutrients, or toxic substances) or activity on the environment.

“The development of CADDIS has been an impressive effort and a great example of customer focus by EPA’s Office of Research and Development,” said Michael Shapiro, deputy assistant administrator in EPA’s Office of Water.

In addition, EPA researchers have developed a new rapid method for testing beach water quality that reduce the time for detecting bacterial contamination from 24 hours to just two. In tests from two Great Lakes beaches, researchers verified that the more rapid method accurately predicts possible adverse health effects from bacterial contamination.

“This research provides a new DNA-based tool that can be used by Great Lakes beach managers to test the water quality in the morning and make same day decisions on beach warnings or closing – often before people even go into the water to swim,” said George Gray, assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. “This tool is an excellent real-world example of how EPA is working to protect the health of people. We can provide them with useful, practical information with which to make decisions that affect their lives and health.”

Bacterial contamination, usually from sewage discharges, can cause gastrointestinal, respiratory, eye and ear illnesses. The next phase of the research project will analyse data from ocean beaches.

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