You would have never imagined that a crucial contribution to water quality control would be provided mussels, clams, algae and small crustaceans, daphnia, more known as water fleas? Of course, the tests are performed with sophisticated tools for chemical analysis, but these are the “aquatic sentinel organisms»To trigger the alarm in an early and immediate way, when there is something wrong in the water. At the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Abruzzo and Molise in Teramo they have adopted a system that exploits the cinability of biological organisms to react to pollutants: when the water is contaminated with some foreign substance, the small living beings begin to move abnormally and at that point the automatic monitoring of the water is triggered. “It is not known which pollutant disturbs the microorganisms – he points out Nicola Ferri, director of the complex structure of the aquatic and terrestrial eco system – but when we observe anomalous movements there is certainly a problem. At that point, a sample is immediately taken and subjected to in-depth examinations ».

Constant activity

The advantage? No impact with the environment and guaranteed work 24 hours a day. “The activity of these fish species is constant and for this reason more effective than periodic samplings which inevitably cannot be continuous” adds Ferri. The IZAM laboratories are a kind of “training base”. Here the microorganisms are prepared to work in the field. In the sea, mussels and clams are used: closing the valves tightly or opening and closing them extremely quickly is a defense signal against a pollutant. The molluscs always work in pairs, locked up in two water cells, closely watched by the cameras. Any anomalous movements are recorded and the images sent to the computer which, with an algorithm, processes the data and triggers any alarm. At this moment two mussels are watching over the sea surrounding the Edison oil platform off the coast of Vasto. P.the smaller the organisms, the more sensitive they are and the capacity to react is high. So to check the purity of the water that flows from the Gran Sasso and that supplies drinking water to Abruzzo, the daphnia, tiny crustaceans, just a millimeter in size.


The cameras capture their power of motion, i circular movements, from top to bottom or repetitive, also sending the data to the computer in this case. When parameters that are not normal are intercepted, the alarm is triggered in real time with remote autosampling. At the training camp, small algae are almost ready to go into action: they will be placed in the artificial basin of the Vormano river used if the stocks of the Gran Sasso are in distress. The principle is the same as for daphnia: when the computer detects mutations in the production of chlorophyll thanks to the images transmitted in real time, the alarm is triggered.

April 2, 2021 (change April 2, 2021 | 4:59 pm)

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