News Feature | September 4, 2014

Toledo Water Ban: Was A Deteriorating Treatment Plant To Blame?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The poor condition of Toledo's water treatment plant has played a key role in the city's struggle with algae, which resulted in a water ban for 400,000 people in August. 

The "silent deterioration" of the city’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant is a big part of the problem, according to the Toledo Blade, which cited an "extensive backlog of delayed repairs at the plant" and "an extensive paper trail of city water-plant problems cited by the Ohio EPA." 

City officials are aware of the problem. Mayor Michael Collins told Blade reporters: “This plant is an atrocity. Nobody had a plan.”

The algae crisis has drummed up resolve to fix the plant. After the crisis, officials said "that the city is at a turning point" when it comes to "the technology at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant," the report said. 

The plant uses modern processes, but its infrastructure is aging. 

"The controversy about the water plant’s status isn’t about the fundamental method Toledo uses to treat water, but the condition of its parts and the overall aging of the 73-year-old facility, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated in 1941 — a product of the New Deal era’s Public Works Administration," the report said. Cost is a major barrier, but the city is planning upgrades.

Of course, the plant is not the only problem in Toledo. The amount of toxic algae blooming in water sources is another piece of the puzzle. Some voices say that tighter controls on phosphorous could go a long way.

"The water that supplies Toledo’s public system would clean itself relatively quickly if we stopped pumping phosphorus into Maumee Bay," the Columbus Dispatch reported, citing scientists. 

Another, perhaps lesser, problem for Toledo: the rumor mill. 

"Officials in Toledo, where a Lake Erie algae bloom made the city’s tap water unsafe to drink earlier this month, are fighting rumors that water problems persist," the Associated Press reported

Image credit: "Untitled," Kansas City District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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