Toxins cause water emergency in Toledo and Monroe County - New York News

Toxins cause water emergency in Toledo and Monroe County

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Photo courtesy: Toledo Blade Photo courtesy: Toledo Blade
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A water ban entered its third day in northwest Ohio and extreme southeast Michigan Monday, after tests showed some toxins are still contaminating Lake Erie. The ban is forcing residents to scramble for water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Click on the video player to watch Randy Wimbley's original report on the algae bloom behind the problem.

Toledo Mayor, D. Michael Collins, said early Monday that most of the tests done by state and federal authorities on Sunday showed a positive trend, but that additional testing is necessary.

In southeastern Michigan, authorities were operating water stations Sunday for the 30,000 customers affected by the toxic contamination. They are expected to reopen Monday morning.

Drinking the water could cause vomiting, cramps and rashes. But no serious illnesses had been reported by late Sunday.

Health officials advised children and those with weak immune systems to avoid showering or bathing in the water.

The toxins that contaminated the region's drinking water supply didn't just suddenly appear.

Water plant operators along western Lake Erie have long been worried about this very scenario as a growing number of algae blooms have turned the water into a pea soup color in recent summers, leaving behind toxins that can sicken people and kill pets.

In fact, the problems on the shallowest of the five Great Lakes brought on by farm runoff and sludge from sewage treatment plants have been building for more than a decade.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a satellite image showing a small but concentrated algae bloom centered right where Toledo draws its water supply, said Jeff Reutter, head of the Ohio Sea Grant research lab.

The bloom was much smaller than in past years and isn't expected to peak until early September. But instead of being pushed out to the middle of the lake, winds and waves drove the algae toward the shore, he said

The amount of phosphorus going into the lake has risen every year since the mid-1990s.

Almost a year ago, one township just east of Toledo told its 2,000 residents not to drink or use the water coming from their taps. That was believed to be the first time a city has banned residents from using the water because of toxins from algae in the lake.

Researchers largely blame the algae's resurgence on manure and chemical fertilizer from farms that wash into the lake along with sewage treatment plants. Leaky septic tanks and stormwater drains have contributed, too. Combined, they flush huge amounts of phosphorus into the lake.

Environmental groups and water researchers have been calling on Ohio and other states in the Great Lakes region to drastically reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake. Ohio lawmakers this past spring took a step toward tackling the algae problem when they enacted a law requiring most farmers to undergo training before they use commercial fertilizers on their fields. But they have stopped short of mandating restrictions on farmers.

The International Joint Commission, an advisory agency made up of Canadian and U.S. officials, said last year urgent steps are needed to reduce phosphorus applied to fields, suggesting among other things that states ban the spread of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.

That report came after a state task force in Ohio called for a 40 percent reduction in all forms of phosphorus going into the lake.

Agriculture industry groups have been asking farmers for more than a year to reduce phosphorus runoff before government regulators step in and impose their own restrictions.

In Michigan, Detroit's 4 million-user water system gets its water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River. In the face of the Toledo water crisis, Detroit officials plan to review their contamination procedures Monday, water department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer told The Detroit News. He said it was unlikely Detroit would face a problem like Toledo's.

Stay with Fox 2 and myfoxdetroit.com for the latest updates.


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