Toledo, Ohio Water Supply Contaminated by Algae From Lake Erie

By Eric Zerkel
Published: August 3, 2014

Toledo, Ohio city officials issued an urgent notice to residents to not drink or use the city's tap water after harmful levels of algae-related toxins were discovered at one of the city's water treatment plants.

A post to the city's Facebook page urged the 400,000-plus residents of Ohio's fourth largest city not to drink or boil the water until the city cleared the water for consumption. Some Toledo, Ohio, suburbs along with areas of southwestern Michigan were also affected by the water ban.

"Chemists testing water at Toledo’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant had two sample readings for microcystin in excess of the recommended “DO NOT DRINK” 1 micro-gram per liter standard," the post read in part.

The post went on to explain that consuming the water could lead to a series of health complications, including "abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea numbness or dizziness." Attempting to boil and drink the water would only worsen those health effects because it would "increase the concentration of the toxins."

Those toxins are said to come from a growing algae bloom on Lake Erie. A recent bulletin issued by NOAA shows the harmful algae bloom growing in Maumee Bay near the mouth of the Maumee River, which runs through Toledo. Lake Erie provides water to more than 11 million people, including major cities like Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit.

(MORE: NOAA Saw This Coming)

The city issued the warning just after midnight, and with no official water source set up by the city, residents made a mad-dash to local stores to clear the shelves of bottled water, the Associated Press reports.

"It looked like Black Friday," said Aundrea Simmons, who stood in a line of about 50 people at a pharmacy before buying four cases of water. "I have children and elderly parents. They take their medication with water."

Officials said Saturday that they were working to set up water distribution centers around the metro area.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency Saturday with water in short supply around the Toledo area. The declaration will enable state government officials to activate infrastructure and ship in additional water resources for residents affected by the ban.

Kasich said it was too early to say how long the advisory will last or what caused toxins to spike suddenly in the drinking water. Officials were waiting on test results on water samples.

"We don't really want to speculate on this," he told The Associated Press. "When it comes to this water, we've got be very careful."

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said it would probably be Sunday morning before all the results are in and officials could consider after that whether to lift the advisory.

Restaurants and other businesses closed-up shop due to the unstable water supply.

Harmful blooms on Lake Erie have become annual affairs, fueled by fertilizers and other run-off from industrial sources surrounding the lake. According to the Associated Press, the city of Toledo spent $4 million on resources to combat the toxins found in harmful algae blooms.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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