Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Toledo-area residents can drink tap water again

After dozens of tests showed that an algae toxin in Lake Erie had dropped, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins declares the tap water now safe. He then drank some.
After dozens of tests showed that an algae toxin in Lake Erie had dropped, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins declares the tap water now safe. He then drank some. PAUL SANCYA / AP
TOLEDO, Ohio - Two days after warning about 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan not to drink their tap water, the mayor of Ohio's fourth-largest city declared Monday that the water was now safe and took a sip.

The city lifted the advisory after dozens of tests over the weekend showed an algae-induced toxin contaminating Lake Erie had dropped to safe levels following intensive chemical treatments.

"Families can return to normal life," said Mayor D. Michael Collins.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the state would conduct a full review of what happened, including taking a look at Toledo's aging water system and figuring out how to reduce pollution that feeds algae in the western end of the lake.

It's still not clear, he said, whether the algae bloom at the point where Toledo draws its water was entirely to blame or whether changes also were needed with the water-supply system.

The weekend warning had led Kasich to declare a state of emergency in three counties, bringing in soldiers from the Ohio National Guard to deliver bottled water and operate purification systems to produce drinkable water.

After the ban was lifted, city officials recommended that residents who had not used their water since Saturday flush out their systems. They asked people not to water lawns or wash cars at the risk of overwhelming the system.

Some weren't ready to drink the tap water just yet. "I'm waiting for two or three days," said Aretha Howard, of Toledo. "I have a pregnant daughter at home. She can't drink this water."

Combating the toxins in Toledo's water was a challenge because of the size of the system and a lack of standards on how to test the water. "This isn't," said the mayor, "an exact science."

The state EPA, according to Kasich, also will be looking at setting rules on how often the water should be tested - something that isn't in place now.

John Seewer Associated Press
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