When we talk about water quality, we’re talking about things such as the physical, biological, and chemical characteristics of the water that you drink. Basically, each of these things has certain parameters that have to be met before the water can truly be considered safe for human consumption. For example, water that has been inundated with toxins from plant life, such as algae, or any kind of other life, can be very hazardous to your health if consumed. To make the water safe for humans to drink, we tend to do things such as chlorinate the water or treat it with ultraviolet light to kill off any microbes that might make the water hazardous to our health. However, none of these options seemed to help the four hundred thousand residents of Toledo, Ohio, as they went without water for a large portion of the last week.
Right now it is inarguable that the biggest topic of discussion concerning water quality is centered around Toledo. The algae bloom that occurred in and around Lake Erie has caused the local water supply to, temporarily, become undrinkable. Even simple solutions such as boiling the water have no effect- residents of Toledo were warned that boiling the water would not rid it of toxins, but would instead increase the potency of toxins that, if consumed, could result in many gastrointestinal anomalies and could, in prolonged contact, cause rash or other skin irritations.
The crisis in Toledo apparently nearing its end, the conversation has begun to turn towards maintaining the integrity of the Great Lakes system, with many critics claiming that the Ohio EPA has been lax in allowing local industries to permit various chemical run-off, such as leftover fertilizer, to be deposited into the system, thus spurring the growth of the algae, causing the massive explosions in algae population that permitted enough algae to be present so as to introduce a massive amount of toxins into the water. Specifically, critics are citing the “Clean Water Act,” stating that the under-utilization of the legislation is what allowed the algae numbers to grow out of control, thus causing the crisis in Toledo.
Citing preliminary expert warnings concerning such an event as the recent algae bloom, these groups allege that the unabated abuse of the Great Lakes system will only lead to more similar disasters impacting the availability of water for the residents of surrounding areas.