Toledo’s Drinking Water Ban Reaches Second Day as Officials Seek Cause

8/4/14
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
8/3/14:

Ohio Unsure When Advisory Will Be Rescinded for More Than 500,000.

Volunteers unload drinking water from a truck in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday.

Algal blooms have been painting the waters of Lake Erie bright green in recent years. But for the first time, suspected toxins from a bloom are keeping hundreds of thousands of people from using this city’s main drinking-water supply.

Officials said Sunday evening they don’t have enough information to lift the recommendation to avoid drinking tap water in the Toledo area.

“These toxins are more toxic than cyanide,” said Jeff Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and F.T. Stone Laboratory at Ohio State University.

The water advisory issued Saturday launched a weekend wave of anxiety across Ohio’s fourth largest city and its suburbs as residents stripped store shelves clean of bottled water and filled up jugs at distribution sites run by the National Guard. Restaurants were urged to close. Authorities cautioned that boiling water would only increase the concentration of the toxins.

“The ban could be gone by tomorrow, but the underlying issue of algae is going to around for a long time,” said Byron Wynn, a 46-year-old married father of one in Toledo who on Sunday marshaled two teenagers he works with to help him ferry water in five-gallon jugs from a distribution site to a public-housing community.

Both elected officials, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said that more needs to be done to reduce the toxins’ suspected cause: nitrogen and phosphorus in Lake Erie, which can come from runoff of overfertilized fields and lawns, from malfunctioning septic systems and from livestock pens.

Ed Moore, the city’s director of public utilities, said the water is still safe to use for bathing as well as for washing clothes using cold water and drying them quickly.

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