Toxins in Toledo

The “do not drink” advisory that affected 500,000 residents of the Toledo, Ohio, metropolitan area over the weekend may have been lifted, but concerns remain – the algae that caused the problem is continuing to bloom in Lake Erie, with experts predicting that lake conditions may worsen in the next month.

The advisory was instigated when the Collins Park water treatment plant found evidence of microcystin, a toxin associated with the blue-green algae currently blooming in Lake Erie, during water testing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to this type of toxin can result in abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes and worse. Symptoms can occur whether the water is ingested or comes into contact with skin.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the city of Toledo added chlorine treatment and carbon filtration to reduce the toxin levels. Although the World Health Organization has set a standard for microcystin, neither the state of Ohio nor the U.S. EPA has developed standards for this toxin.

The water was declared safe on Monday, when Mayor D. Michael Collins announced the lifting of the advisory and sipped on a glass of city water to reassure residents it was OK to drink.

The problems may not end there however – the Wall Street Journal cited aquatic ecologist Don Scavia of the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute, who noted that the algae bloom that caused the toxin might not peak until September, possibly leading to further water quality issues over the next few months.