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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Concern swamps relief for many area residents

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Volunteers Dakari Parish, left, 13, and Ayanna Bishop, right, 17, hand out free water in the receiving area at Central Catholic on Monday despite the all-clear declaration issued by Mayor Collins and other officials. Volunteers Dakari Parish, left, 13, and Ayanna Bishop, right, 17, hand out free water in the receiving area at Central Catholic on Monday despite the all-clear declaration issued by Mayor Collins and other officials.
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When the all-clear came, relief was clouded by concern.

Several residents said they had no plans to dash home to turn on the kitchen tap, and some said they fear that this is just the beginning of water shutdowns. Some questioned what changed and why suddenly the Toledo area’s “toxic” water supply was now safe to consume.

“I‘m not believing it,” said Marcie Hubbell of Maumee who pulled up alongside her daughter’s vehicle after getting a case of water at a distribution site on Monday morning. “I am not going to drink tap water for awhile until I am certain. I don’t think we go from where we were to the advisory lifted just because. You got to take into account what’s been happening, look at the whole picture. Look at what people are saying on the Internet. It’s not good.”

She added that area residents shouldn’t be quick to blame farmers as the source of the water woes. Maybe the problem is linked to years of chemical applications on lawns, she said. “It’s not just one thing.”

The water distribution site in Maumee opened at 8 a.m. Monday, and before 10 a.m. about 400 cases of water, at 32 bottles per case, had been given away, Maumee Fire Chief Richard Monto said.

When told the “do not drink” advisory was lifted about 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sue Richardson of Toledo blinked. As the news sunk in, she said “Oh great,” and then paused. “OHHHH great!” she exclaimed as vehicles lined up behind her at the site in the Parkway Plaza parking lot.

Tiffany Hubbell of Maumee went there with her sons Brayden Eby, 9, and Nolan Martin, 2. In a hurry to get water while it was available, they scurried out of their house while still in their pajamas.

She and some friends from Toledo trekked to Pokagon State Park in Indiana for an impromptu two-day camping trip over the weekend to avoid dealing with the water advisory, she said. “We went on a little adventure and got to take showers with no stress or worry. Then yesterday it was back to reality.”

The reality, she said, is that folks on Facebook should not be making the situation into such a joke.

“This is really serious. This is going to keep happening. There is no ‘easy’ button to push to make it all better,” Ms. Hubbell said. Too, she worries about the waste that the world in general and the Toledo area in specific dumps onto Mother Earth each day, particularly locally in recent days as plastic spoons and forks, paper plates, and toss-when-empty water bottles — the mountain of water bottles — piled up. “Plastic ware is convenient, but it doesn’t help anything.”

She and others in the water line said they want to find ways to be prepared not if, but when this happens again. “I’d rather be prepared,” Ms. Hubbell said, adding that storage and cost can be an issue.

Myah Brown, center, 11 months, celebrates the end of bottled-water baths with Connie Elter, left, and Dawn Szych, Myah’s grandmother, at Ms. Szych’s West Toledo home. Many say they might bathe in the water, but they won’t drink it. Myah Brown, center, 11 months, celebrates the end of bottled-water baths with Connie Elter, left, and Dawn Szych, Myah’s grandmother, at Ms. Szych’s West Toledo home. Many say they might bathe in the water, but they won’t drink it.
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For now, she plans to proceed with caution when it comes to consumption of tap water, and said she plans to buy new toothbrushes for her family.

Online, several commenters revealed continued safety concerns. One resident urged folks to “slow down,” considering the advisory just had been lifted, and two days ago the water was “extremely contaminated.”

Said another: “No matter what unless they tell people why all of a sudden the water is fine, there is no freaking way I am consuming it.”

Caring not what Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins had said about the lifting of the water advisory, an area resident posted, “Not drinking water. Don’t think much has changed since Sunday.”

Others commented they were enjoying long showers but planned to skip the consumption of tap water for awhile.

Primary reason? Playing it safe.

In a Blade online poll asking reader reaction to Toledo lifting the “do not drink” advisory, a small percentage of readers checked that they were elated, but most answered they were “relieved, but cautious” or “I’ll still be drinking bottled water for a bit ... just to be safe.” The remainder doubted that there ever was an issue with the water.

In neighboring Fulton County, where the eastern side of the county had been under the water-use advisory, calls that came into the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency on Monday were from residents concerned about flushing instructions rather than the safety of the water supply.

So far, “the citizens we’ve spoken with are trusting,” said Toni Schindler, marketing and communications director for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

In the meantime, area residents continued to praise the kindness of strangers during the crisis, including volunteers who distributed water in the village of Whitehouse, a community that purchased water from the village of Swanton. The treated water was hauled by a private contractor, using tankers designed for carrying potable water. About 13,000 gallons of clean, drinkable water was distributed in containers to people in 970 vehicles that stopped by the Whitehouse fire station.

Whitehouse also distributed water to local nursing homes and assisted-care facilities. “We enjoyed the help of approximately 80 volunteers,” said village administrator Jordan Daugherty.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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