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Toledo mayor: System safe, but water advisory remains in effect

  • CTY-water-3p-Gov-Mayor

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and Mayor D. Michael Collins speak to the media after a closed door meeting to address the water emergency in Toledo today downtown.

    <The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • CTY-algae04pThis-is-a-glass-of-alg

    This is a glass of algae filled Lake Erie water, near the Toledo water intake crib, on Sunday. It was shown during a trip to the intake hosted by the National Wildlife Federation.

    <The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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CTY-algae04pThis-is-a-glass-of-alg

This is a glass of algae filled Lake Erie water, near the Toledo water intake crib, on Sunday. It was shown during a trip to the intake hosted by the National Wildlife Federation.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins opened a rare, 3 a.m. news conference today by emphatically stating on a couple of occasions it is "my decision" to keep the advisory against drinking the city's tap water or returning to normal usage operations in effect until further notice, even though the latest test results from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest the algae-induced toxin has probably dissipated to safe levels by now.

"It is my decision to keep the status quo in effect for at least the next five or six hours," Mr. Collins said, explaining he was still not comfortable with results he was getting in two undisclosed parts of the city from tests performed by the city's own chemists inside Toledo's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.

"Two tests came back too close for comfort for me," he added.

Delays came before the news conference.

Mr. Collins just notified The Blade at 12:43 a.m. to sit tight a little longer: The lab results now are not expected to be in until 2 a.m.

"We are running a little late," the mayor said in a text message.

Earlier, Mr. Collins said an update could come at 1:15 a.m.

"We're doing new testing," he told The Blade about 9:15 p.m.

The mayor said he is awaiting more results from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's laboratory in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, the U.S. EPA's laboratory in Cincinnati, and the city of Toledo's laboratory at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.

RELATED CONTENT: Toledo water test results improving

RELATED CONTENT: Water crisis grips Toledo area

PHOTO GALLERIES:
■ Kasich, Collins comment as Toledo water crisis continues
■ Toledoans still scurrying for water supplies
■ Algae at Toledo water intake crib

CTY-water-3p-Gov-Mayor

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and Mayor D. Michael Collins speak to the media after a closed door meeting to address the water emergency in Toledo today downtown.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
Enlarge | Buy This Image

"I'm going to err on the side of caution," Mr. Collins told reporters. "The last thing I want to do is say everything alright and then go through this again."

Asked if that was a sign of the sampling results not being definitive, he responded: "I'm not on any fence post."

Out on Lake Erie, about 20 people — a combination of journalists, elected officials, and environmental activists — got an up-close look at the algae problem surrounding Toledo water-intake crib today.

The water had a striking, green hue — almost like green paint or, as it's often described when microcystis algae is in full bloom, like pea soup.

The trip was arranged by the National Wildlife Federation, which has a Great Lakes field office in Ann Arbor.

Collin O'Mara, the wildlife federation's new president and chief executive officer, was in the area for other business and delayed his return trip to the Washington suburb of Reston, Va. to be part of the tour.

"There's a systematic challenge we face here in the Great Lakes region that's much bigger than the current water crisis in Toledo," Mr. O'Mara said, referring to climate change and how scientists believe it has exacerbated algae blooms in recent years. "If we don't get our arms around it, we will see property values decline, tourism decline, and wildlife impacted, too. I encourage everyone to consider the broader issues," he said.

Councilman Larry Sykes and Ohio Rep. Michael Sheehy (D., Oregon) were also part of the tour.

"This is a serious issue. We need to look at this aggressively," Mr. Sykes said.

Earlier in the day, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Mayor Collins said during an afternoon news conference today they still don't know how far Toledo's 500,000 customers are from having safe tap water restored and the ability to resume normal activities.

"We're going to move when it's time. There are no exact tests. There is no exact protocol. When we're comfortable, that is when we'll make that decision," Mr. Kasich said outside the Lucas County Emergency Services Building with Mr. Collins and other city, state, and federal standing nearby.

Officials are waiting on results of 52 samples drawn from area taps Saturday night, a set being analyzed by a highly specialized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Cincinnati.

The lab is one of the most sophisticated in this part of the country for detecting microcystin, the algae-based toxin which caused the crisis. Officials are not expected to get those readings until late today, then spend hours mulling over them, Mr. Collins said.

"We really, at this time, cannot make a decision," Mr. Collins said.

Residents may need to flush out their pipes once the advisory is lifted, Edward Moore, Toledo public utilities director, told reporters before Mr. Kasich and Mr. Collins addressed them.

Dr. David Grossman, Lucas County health commissioner, said people should refrain from washing their dishes for the time being.

He encouraged them to use paper plates. If they feel they must wash their dishes now, they should rinse them with bottled water, he said.

"I would not use tap water to do dishes right now," Dr. Grossman said.

He told a The Blade on Saturday he probably spoke prematurely when he said people could resume brushing their teeth with tap water.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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