Residents of Toledo, Ohio received a scare over the weekend when the city announced a drinking water ban in response to reports of a powerful toxin in the water. Though the ban was lifted, some are still concerned about the long-term health of their water supplies.
According to a report by the New York Times, the toxin, known as microcystin, was created by algae blooms in Lake Erie, which are fairly common in the summer. Runoff from farmland, livestock pens or even malfunctioning septic tanks can cause nitrogen and phosphorus levels to increase in the water, resulting in an environment that facilitates algae growth.
For Toledo, that meant a weekend of scouring convenience store shelves for water bottles while city officials closely monitored toxin levels, waiting for the moment when the water could be turned on. Finally, on Monday, Mayor D. Michael Collins announced that the water was safe, even taking a drink during the press conference just to drive the point home.
This does not indicate a complete return to normalcy. Mayor Collins is still reportedly asking residents to cut back on all nonessential water use as filtration plants reach full capacity. In addition, he added that some may need to flush their lines before bathing or drinking, to ensure that no contaminated water is left in the pipes.
Though algae blooms happen yearly, severe cases can be quite disruptive. It is important to manage the causes of these blooms and ensure that they have minimal impact on water supplies. City leaders may wish to work with environmental consultants on this issue.