The recent ban on Toledo’s drinking water was lifted Monday after tests declared the water safe for consumption, according to city officials.
A ban on the city’s water was imposed on the residents of Toledo, Ohio for three days after a large bloom of algae contaminated the water. Tests have concluded that “there are no problems whatsoever” with the water, said Mayor D. Michael Collins.
“Our water is safe,” Collins said. “Families can return to normal life.”
In an effort to further prove the safety of the drinking water, Collins held up a cup of the water and took a sip. “Here’s to you, Toledo. You did a great job,” he said.
The ban was imposed on Saturday after levels of the toxic chemical microcystin was discovered to have contaminated the water, likely a result of algae blooms in Lake Erie. The algae were fed by runoff contaminated by farm fertilizer and sewage treatment sludge. Over 400,000 residents were told not to drink the water, use it for bathing, or brushing teeth.
Since the contamination was brought on by algae, officials informed residents that boiling the contaminated water would actually do more harm than good. Boiling water contaminated by algae causes microsystin to concentrate and even more dangerous if ingested.
Officials advised residents to run their faucets in order to flush the pipes of any remaining water that could be contaminated. If the bad water is ingested, it could cause uncomfortable side effects, such as cramps, vomiting, and skin rashes. No serious illnesses have reported since the onset of the water ban.
Algae blooms in Lake Erie are not uncommon in the area. Normally, the algae are contained in deeper parts of the lake, but shifting currents pushed it into the more shallow parts of the lake. Maumee Bay took on the majority of the bloom, which is where Toledo residents receive their tap water.
This is not the first time Lake Erie has been contaminated by algae. Gary Fahnenstiel, research scientist at the University of Michigan Water Center, said, “The resurgence of harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie over the last decade or so is attributable to at least three factors,” he stated.
Fahnenstiel continued, “One is the flow of phosphorus from agricultural land. The other factors that are often overlooked are climate change and invasive mussels. Climate change and the quagga and zebra mussels have changed the way Lake Erie responds to the nutrients flowing into the lake from croplands. It’s not simply a nutrient story. It’s more complicated than that, and it’s not going to be a trivial undertaking to get rid of these harmful algal blooms.”
Mayor Collins summed it up in his own words.
“It didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not getting out of this overnight,” Collins told reporters.