New York and San Francisco use fish to monitor drinking water

Published 25 August 2006

In airports German Shepherds are used to protect civilians from contaminants, bomb making materials, narcotics, etc.; In two cities, however, fish are doing the detecting by monitoring drinking water

New York and San Francisco have begun using the IAC 1090 Intelligent Aquatic BioMonitoring System (iABS), developed by Poway, California-based

Intelligent Automation Corporation (IAC), CA to protect public drinking

water from contamination and potential terrorism incidents. The U.S. Army is

using the system at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The U.S. Army Center for

Environmental Health Research (USACEHR), the U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency (EPA), and the Department of Defense Legacy Program are development partners of the device.

The system uses nature’s own assets to keep an eye on water quality.

Specifically, bluegill sunfish (in Europe the fish is known as bream). The

company has married the fish’s own sensibilities to a technology which has

been developed during the past thirty years, throwing in state-of-the art IT

and automation technologies. If the fish detects toxic conditions in the

water, an alarm is triggered and the IAC 1090 is prompted to take a series

of water samples. In addition, the system automatically notifies appropriate

staff by phone or e-mail, and may even shut off the water entirely in

certain circumstances. The system can operate in a networked or stand-alone configuration, and may be monitored from afar via modem of the Internet.

The iABS monitors fish behavior by using a pair of non-contact electrodes

mounted above and below each of eight bluegills. As the fish move in the

chamber and ventilate their gills, muscle contractions generate electrical

signals in the water, and these signals are monitored by a computer. When

abnormal fish behavior is identified, the iABS provides immediate alarm

notification and can start an automated water sampler to permit follow-up

chemical analysis.

The company claims that, in tests, the system has demonstrated a record of

zero false positives. San Francisco has purchased three units at $110,000

each. It is not known how many units New York has purchased.

-read more in this Defenseindustrydaily

report; read more about the

1090 iABS at company Web