News Feature | August 4, 2014

Toledo Water Ban Lifted, But Toxic Algae Could Return

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

alage

The ban on water use in Toledo was lifted at 9:30 a.m. Monday Aug. 4, after around 400,000 residents were unable to use their water for over two days due to toxic algae contamination, reports CNN.

"Our water is safe," Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said, according to a CNN report. "The families can return to normal life."

The decision to lift the ban wasn’t made lightly. As of 3 a.m. Aug. 4, Mayor Collins was still concerned that the water in Toledo was not 100 percent safe. 

“Collins made a statement around 3 a.m. Monday morning saying that although the EPA has deemed Toledo water toxin levels safe, the water ban will remain in place for now," Toledo News Now reported

Collins explained that he was wary of the toxin levels detected by city chemists. The chemists tested water from Toledo's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.

"It is my decision to keep the status quo in effect for at least the next five or six hours," Collins said prior to the ban being lifted, per the Toledo Blade. "Two tests came back too close for comfort for me."

During the crisis, officials have warned residents to be wary of even touching the water, and that boiling the water may make the toxins proliferate, WKSU reported

"The orders were clear: Do not drink the water, do not brush your teeth or prepare food with it, and do not give it to your pets. Health officials also advised that children and people with weak immune systems refrain from using the water to bathe," the New York Times reported

The area was in a state of emergency due to the algae contamination.

"The National Guard is making water deliveries in Toledo, where officials say the tap water isn't safe to drink even if it's been boiled. Governor John Kasich has declared an emergency in the area," NPR reported, noting that blue-green algae toxins "can cause flu-like symptoms and liver damage."

Although the water in Toledo is once again safe, experts are concerned that algae could cause problems in Ohio in the future. It could return as the year continues, according to Director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Stone Laboratory Jeff Reutter. 

"The bloom that we have right now is likely to persist into October, and it will probably peak in September," he said to the Wall Street Journal. "We're not at the worst part of this yet."

This is not the first time Ohio has dealt with toxic algae.Water Online previously reported that Ottawa County’s Carroll Township treatment plant was shutdown because of algae last October.

Cyanotoxins, which are produced by blue-green algae, are on the EPA's Candidate Contaminant 3 List, which enumerates harmful contaminants for potential regulatory action.

Image credit: "Ohio Algae," B. W. Townsend © 2007, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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