Innovative technologies for water safety

Axios river has flooded. Contaminated water suddenly enters the water transfer canal from Aliakmonas to the Thessaloniki Water Treatment Plant (WTP), in Sindos. What is the risk of contaminating the water that supplies Thessaloniki? How will we detect it in time and how will we manage the crisis? With what tools?

This was the scenario of the pilot exercise carried out last week in the framework of the PathoCERT (Pathogen Contamination Emergency Response Technologies) project, aimed at the use of new technologies in extreme flood emergencies, which unfortunately are current nowadays. The Greek Rescue Team (EOD) also participated in the exercise with a simulated search and rescue scenario for missing persons in the same flooded area. EYATH and EOD were able to pilot and evaluate innovative technologies, with which all field teams can coordinate, communicate with each other and receive orders from the respective command center for crisis management.

“The purpose of PathoCERT is to highlight new technologies for rapid detection, response and management of water contamination phenomena for all direct responders, such as the Water Supply Company but also Civil Protection, regional bodies that are supervisors of Public Health, the Fire Department, the Coast Guard Corps, that is, those directly involved in an emergency and critical event of contamination in the waters”, explains Katerina Christodoulou, head of the Research and Development Department of EYATH SA.

As part of the exercise, EYATH conducted pilot tests of important tools. Interesting technologies of PathoCERT were applied, such as satellite images (large-scale analysis of the extent of the phenomenon) and mapping of the flooded area using a drone, which also provides the possibility of sampling the water by “reaching” areas where samplers cannot safely reach. Thus, it is possible to take a sample immediately and also immediately for the team to see whether or not there are pathogens in the water. “At this stage we are using the PathoTeSTICK, a rapid test type tool, with which within two or three minutes you can have an indication that there are pathogenic microorganisms in the water sample. It is an innovative sensor of small dimensions, which is adapted to the port of the mobile phone. By immersing the sensor in water, you can see on the mobile – with the corresponding application of PathoCERT – a positive or negative indication for pathogenic microorganisms. But we also tested another detection instrument in our pilot exercise, the BACTcontrol, which is either portable or placed in the field and in 30 minutes gives us a reliable measurement for the presence of pathogens”, notes Ms. Christodoulou.

The PathoCERT project (Horizon 2020) was officially launched in September 2020. EYATH S.A. is one of a total of 23 European partners, while a partner from South Korea also participates. Its subject is the full spectrum of the management of a water contamination by pathogenic organisms, starting from the rapid detection and awareness of an extraordinary infectious phenomenon and continuing to the epidemiological assessment of the risk, the actual treatment of the phenomenon of course and, finally, the possible criminal research.

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