News

Toxic algae threatens Ohio drinking water

Toxic algae threatens Ohio drinking water

DRINKING WATER:A sample glass of Lake Erie water is photographed near the City of Toledo water intake crib, Sunday, Aug. 3, in Lake Erie, about 2.5 miles off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. More tests are needed to ensure that toxins are out of Toledo's water supply, the mayor said Sunday, instructing the 400,000 people in the region to avoid drinking tap water for a second day. Toledo officials issued the warning early Saturday after tests at one treatment plant showed two sample readings for microsystin above the standard for consumption, possibly because of algae on Lake Erie. Photo: Associated Press/Haraz N. Ghanbari

By George Tanber

TOLEDO Ohio (Reuters) – Health authorities tested water for toxins in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday as some 400,000 people remained without safe drinking water for a second day following the discovery of high toxin levels from algae on Lake Erie.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said some sampling showed decreased toxin levels but results from further tests would not be known until later in the day. The city is waiting on water samples being analyzed at Environmental Protection Agency labs in Cincinnati.

“All I can tell you is that everything is trending in a very positive direction,” Collins told reporters, but he added that he could not predict when water would be safe to drink.

About 500,000 people get water from the contaminated source but about 100,000 residents of some communities have backup water supply systems, said city of Toledo spokeswoman Lisa Ward.

Toledo Public Utilities Director Edward Moore said a plan is in place to swiftly flush the system of contaminated water once the water supply is deemed safe. Residents will be advised how long to run water in their homes to clear pipes of contaminated water.

Health officials sent samples to several laboratories after finding Lake Erie, which provides the bulk of the area’s drinking water, may have been affected by a “harmful algal bloom,” Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer said.

Ohio Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency on Saturday for the state’s fourth-largest city and surrounding counties. The city and other agencies have established sites where bottled water is being distributed free to the public.

“Everybody needs to stay cool and calm,” Kasich told a news conference on Sunday. “We’re going to learn from this and make improvements.”

SEEKING SAFE WATER

Many residents drove to other states in search of fresh water as stores rapidly sold out of bottled water.

Jeff Hauter of Toledo drove to a Walmart in suburban Detroit where he bought 18 gallons and four cases of water. He said he ran into others from the Toledo area loading up their vehicles.

Algal blooms in Lake Erie are fairly common, typically in the summer, state emergency operations spokesman Chris Abbruzzese said. Potentially dangerous algal blooms, or rapid increases in algae levels, are caused by high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous.

Those nutrients can come from runoff of excessively fertilized fields and lawns or from malfunctioning septic systems or livestock pens, city officials said.

Drinking the contaminated water can affect the liver and cause diarrhea, nausea, numbness or dizziness, officials said. Boiling will not destroy the toxins.

The water should not be used for drinking, making infant formula or ice, brushing teeth or preparing food, the governor’s office said. It also should not be given to pets, but hand washing is safe and adults can shower in it, officials said.

In response to the Toledo crisis, Chicago began additional precautionary testing on Lake Michigan water, a city spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by George Tanber in Toledo, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Writing by Curtis Skinner and Kevin Murphy; Editing by Jane Baird, Tom Heneghan and Mohammad Zargham)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Platini to run for FIFA presidency

Fresh
platini

UEFA head Michel Platini announced on Wednesday his intention to stand for presidency of FIFA in place of Sepp Blatter.

in Entertainment

Chris Hemsworth survived on 500 calories a day for shipwreck drama

Fresh
chrishemsworth

The "Thor" star is used to bulking up for his action films, but this time he battled constant hunger pangs.

in Entertainment

New Dr. Seuss book hits shelves

Fresh
18-overlay6

"What Pet Should I Get?" goes on sale 24 years after the author's death.

in Sports

ANALYSIS: Women’s impact on men’s professional sports

Fresh
23-overlay19

The Arizona Cardinals say new coach Jen Welter is believed to be the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL.

in National, Sports, World

U.S. dentist accused of killing beloved Cecil the Lion

Fresh
25-overlay17

Wildlife officials accused an American hunter of killing one of the oldest and most famous lions in Zimbabwe, without a permit after paying $50,000 to two people who lured the beast to its death.