Rapid field test identifying fecal-contaminated waters for pollution source detection


To construct and test a portable device for rapid detection of water contamination by disease-causing bacteria

Anticipated Impact: 

Faster remediation of microbial water pollution and reduction in associated illnesses


Bacterial pollution is ubiquitous in surface waters of Washington and elsewhere. Cleaning up the problem is predicated on proper source identification. However, current lab-based tests require trained personnel and days to identify contamination.  Photonic BioSystems is developing a rapid, cost-effective, quantitative bacterial test system to enable analysis of water in the field without extensive training, with the ultimate goals of reducing fecal contamination of water resources and the spread of human pathogens. The ability to determine contamination status on-site in a timely way enables same-day follow-up testing to guide subsequent corrective actions. This system, which represents an enhancement of the company’s existing assay technology, could be useful for government agencies as well as citizen scientists. The LSDF grant will support design of a smartphone-based imaging system/reader and associated "app,” optimization of assay conditions, and assessment of speed and accuracy in laboratory and real-world settings.

Collaborating organizations: King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Seattle Public Utilities

Microbial Water Pollution Detection

Grant Update

Principal Investigator:
David Putnam
Grantee Organization:
Photonic BioSystems, Inc.
Grant Title:
Rapid field test identifying fecal-contaminated waters for pollution source detection
Grant Cohort and Year:
2014 Proof of Concept (03)
Grant Period:
03/12/2014 - 03/11/2016 (Completed)
Grant Amount:
The microbial incubation and fluorescent assay system for field testing of water-quality has been successfully engineered to a functional prototype state. Several innovative implementations have been incorporated into the system that improves upon the design of a low-cost, automated, portable, stand-alone instrument. Potential commercialization partners/licensees are currently being sought and Photonic Biosystems is attempting to raise funds to facilitate that endeavor.

Impact in Washington

Location of LSDF Grantee
Locations of Collaborations/Areas of Impact

Legislative Districts:
11, 34, 36, 37, 43, 46, 48

Health Impacts

Microbial Water Pollution Detection