In Toledo, Ohio, population 400,000, the mayor recently instructed citizens to avoid drinking tap water for a second day. The city officials issued a warning earlier this month explaining that tests showed a reading of microcystin above the standard for consumption. The algae on Lake Erie are assumed to have caused the toxin.
Interestingly, the city advised against boiling water, a usual method for ridding of toxins, because it would only increase the concentration of this particular toxin. The level of danger is so extreme that children have been advised not to shower or bathe in the water and pets shouldn’t drink it either. Some hospitals canceled elective surgeries and were sending surgical equipment that needed sterilized to facilities outside the water emergency, said Bryan Biggie, disaster coordinator for ProMedica hospitals in Toledo.
“City officials said consuming water containing algal toxins may result in abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness or dizziness,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
The increasing amount of algae blooms on Lake Erie shows true what scientists and government officials have been saying for years: the lake is in trouble. Lake Erie is being choked every summer with thick mats of algae, caused by the phosphorus washed from farms, cattle lots and leaky septic systems. These factors directly impact surrounding areas such as Toledo, which rely on the lake for drinking water.
Despite how much media attention this particular situation has garnered, the restriction on water because of toxins is not unusual. Last September another Ohio lakefront community called Carroll Township was stuck with the second-largest algae bloom ever, following close behind the largest which stretched 120 miles from Toledo to Cleveland and happened as recently as 2011.
Hopefully this most recent water restriction won’t leave too much of a negative impact on Toledo. Perhaps the situation will lend more awareness to the toxin levels in Lake Erie and other significant bodies of water.