Toledo Bearing Full Brunt of Lake Erie Algae Bloom

UPDATE: 8/5/14: Toledo’s Contaminated Water: Here’s What Went Wrong



Ban has been lifted but personally I would give it a couple days before using it for drinking and cooking. I would also demand transparency in testing and how the water is being processed now. This isn't the end considering retiscince of authorities to regulate fertilizer runoff and the fact that climate change is here to stay.

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A sample glass of Lake Erie water is extracted near the City of Toledo water intake crib on Sunday.
Photograph: Haraz N Ghanbari/AP

Toledo Bearing Full Brunt of Lake Erie Algae Bloom

By Laura Arenschield

The night before Toledo officials warned people not to drink the municipal tap water, Jeff Reutter opened a federal website to check on the algae bloom in western Lake Erie.

The picture didn’t look bad, at first, to Reutter, an expert on toxic algae who is the director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program. The algae covered Maumee Bay, but the bloom was significantly smaller than the one in 2011 that stretched past Cleveland, ruining summer beach trips for families along the Lake Erie coast.

A closer look gave Reutter pause, though. The most-intense parts of the bloom seemed to have settled right at the mouth of the Maumee River.

“It’s at the greatest concentration right in Maumee Bay,” Reutter said yesterday. “And, unfortunately, that’s where the Toledo water intake is” for the city’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.

Early Saturday morning, Toledo officials confirmed Reutter’s fears. Tests at the plant showed levels of the toxin microcystin in Toledo’s drinking water that were above the 1 part per billion that the World Health Organization deems is safe to drink.

Boiling water concentrates that toxin, so a simple boil alert wasn’t an option.

By 2 a.m. Saturday, Toledo had issued a warning that ultimately affected more than 500,000 people: Don’t drink water from the taps. Don’t even cook with it.

Microcystin can cause nerve and liver damage in people and animals. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, cramping and dizziness.

It was the second time that algae toxins had contaminated a public drinking-water system in Ohio. In September, about 2,000 people served by a water-treatment plant in Ottawa County, in northwestern Ohio, were without safe tap water for drinking or cooking for two days.

Reutter said the bloom over Maumee Bay now is “exactly the same situation” as the bloom that polluted water in Ottawa County last year. The wind patterns have kept it concentrated near where Toledo collects its water rather than spreading it throughout Lake Erie.

“There’s no problem over at Marblehead or any of the islands or Cedar Point or Cleveland,” Reutter said. “But the Toledo area is really getting the full brunt of this right now.”

Adults affected by the warning still can use the water for bathing. The World Health Organization allows up to 20 parts of microcystin per billion parts of water for bathing. Tests at the Toledo plant showed water there had levels as high as 2.5 parts per billion.

George Zonders, a spokesman for Columbus’ public utilities, said it is unlikely that toxic algae could shut down the drinking-water supply here because Columbus gets its water from more than one source. The city is installing a $70 million treatment system in 2016 that will, in part, help deal with algae toxins.

Municipalities treat algae toxins with carbon. The toxins latch on to the carbon, and the combined particles are then removed from the water.

Algae flourish in warm, shallow waters, which makes Lake Erie — the shallowest of the Great Lakes — an inviting home. The algae feed on phosphorus, a key component of the fertilizers farmers spread over fields.

Studies at the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University in Tiffin have found a direct link between farming and high levels of phosphorus in watersheds, Laura Johnson, a research scientist there, said yesterday.

“We know it’s coming from agricultural runoff. But in reality, when we think about why these farms are leaking phosphorus, that part of the story is far from clear and far from simple,” Johnson said.

Heavy rains can wash fertilizers from fields into the streams and rivers that feed lakes. Overflowing sewers, failed septic systems and runoff from lawn fertilizers also contribute to phosphorus in the watershed.

Ohio has no laws requiring farmers to limit the amount of phosphorus on their fields or that force farmers to reduce runoff. But lawmakers this past spring took a step toward tackling the algae problem when they offered farmers voluntary training before they use commercial fertilizers on their fields. snip Reutter said scientists and public water and health officials are concerned because the algae bloom in Maumee Bay is likely to spread on Lake Erie. Algae problems typically get worse in September and October when the water is warmer than in the spring.

End of excerpt

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Perfect storm... warmer temperatures, heavier rainfalls, increased run off of nitrogen fertilizers combined with poisons like ROUNDUP combined with dysfunctional leadership killing our water. I think it is safe to say that Lake Erie is dying. The water quality has been declining as we see increases in fertilizer run off and heavier precipitation events in this area of the country and flooding due to an amplification of the hydrologic cycle through anthropogenic global warming. It really just at this point makes me cry to see all of this happening now. We are killing our only home and making it uninhabitable and our water dying will surely be the end for us. Sounds too depressing? Not sunny enough with enough sugarcoating? Don't want to read it? Too bad. I'm angry and I am frightened thinking of what we have unleashed by our greed, apathy and incessant placation and arrogance and I won't apologize for that. WATER is our lifeblood and a world without it is no world for humans. I suppose we will have to learn that fact the hard way.





Taken By Storm


This satellite image provided by NOAA shows the algae bloom on Lake Erie in 2011 which according to NOAA was the worst in decades.
Photograph: AP

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Also see:

Friday Night: Tests Come Back At Almost Three Parts Per Billion

Climate change brings mostly bad news for Ohio: Big algae bloom in Lake Erie, very dry 2015 forecast

Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution

Great Lakes Going Down?

More Tests Needed on Toledo Water Before Supply Can Be Restored/Empties Bottled Water

Between the West Virginia poisoning in the beginning of this year (which BTW saw a slap on the wrist to Freedom Industries paying a fine of only $11,000 after poisoning the water supply of over 300,00 people, the coal ash spill in North Carolina courtesy of Duke Energy that got them a slap on the wrist as well, the shut offs in Detroit, the extreme drought in California, the algae toxins in Toledo and the myriad effects of fracking in 36 states, the bottled water industry must be in Nirvana. Make no mistake about it, the privatization of our national water supply is something companies like Nestle are salivating over. Things that make you go hmm....

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