About 20 percent of all the fresh water in the world is located in the Great Lakes, but that gave residents of Toledo, Ohio, and the surrounding suburbs in Michigan little comfort over the weekend when officials declared the water unsafe for any use. This severe action was taken by the mayor on Friday and lasted until Monday August 4, 2014.
The problem was the algae bloom near the water intake pipes about 2.5 miles from Curtice, Ohio. The bloom caused the water at Toledo’s Collins Water Treatment Plant to show contamination and officials issued the the order not to use the water for any reason. While many communities occasionally issue warnings that residents need to boil the water before using, officials warned that was not enough in this case. The water could cause microcysts. Signs of microcysts include vomiting, cramps and rashes.
Concerned residents quickly rushed to stores and brought all bottled water, as the government scrambled to institute an emergency water infrastructure. By Friday, the Ohio National Guard had implemented a water purification system and started producing water that was safe to use. Retailers also took emergency measures to divert any available water to the area. Area businesses, especially restaurants, closed their doors. This water emergency is estimated to have cost Toledo $4 million dollars and other communities have had to spend additional funds.
The algae bloom that caused the problem had slowly been growing over the last several years in the MaumecBay near the Mauznee River. Officials say that the bloom is the result of fertilizer and other run-off into LakeEerie. This is the largest occasion where the water in the Great Lakes has been found unsafe, but it is not the first. In 2013, officials with Carrol Township ordered its 2,000 residents not to use the water.
In order to correct the situation, the government added chemicals to the water at the point of intake. This helped to break up the algae bloom. In addition, the city put carbon in the water pipes to clean them of any algae that was already in the pipes. While tests at the water treatment plant showed normal on Sunday, tests further from the plant still showed abnormal levels of algae.
The mayor of Toledo is concerned about the future of the water. He says that residents have not done a good job of taking care of this natural resource. He wants the legislature to come up with money to assist farmers in stopping the run-off of fertilizer into the river. Some residents say that the city also needs to build a new water treatment plant. The current intake pipes are located in the shallowest part of LakeEerie where the algae bloom is more likely to occur.
While officials say the water is safe, many residents question the safety of the water. They say they would rather wait for a day or two and make sure that the water remains safe. This is especially true of those who already have medical conditions such as pregnancy, infants, and the elderly.