Late Friday, two sample readings of microcystin were detected in the local Collins Park Water Treatment Plant at levels above the standard for consumption. The plant serves water to about 400,000 residents. After the contamination was confirmed, Ohio Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency for Lucas, Wood and Fulton counties and deployed the National Guard to deliver clean water to the area.
Ingesting microcystin can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upset stomach. Residents have been told to avoid drinking or cooking with their tap water, though bathing is not prohibited for healthy adults.
At the moment it is unclear what caused the sudden contamination, though evidence suggests algae blooms in western Lake Erie are to blame. Nearly one year ago, toxic algae in the Maumee Bay area were responsible for shutting down the Carroll Township water plant east of Toledo. That time, 2,000 residents were banned from using their tap water while the plant removed the contamination.
Toxic algae is enough of a problem around western Lake Erie that most treatment plants check for it specifically. The blooms grow worse when runoff from farms and lawns wastewater treatment plants reaches the lake – often through the Maumee River. In a particularly sunny summer, the algae expand and produce enough toxins to endanger the water supply. Meteorologist Ryan Wichman says toxic blooms may increase through the hot months of August and September.
On Sunday morning, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins announced that results from further water tests were “trending in a positive direction,” but officials are waiting to declare the water safe until additional tests return.