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Published: Thursday, 8/7/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Ohio EPA chief warned Toledo mayor in June letter of 'imminent vulnerability' to city’s drinking water

BLADE STAFF
“I cannot underscore boldly enough the precarious condition of Toledo’s drinking water system and the imminent vulnerability to failure,” Craig W. Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, seen here at right, wrote in a June 9 letter to Mayor D. Michael Collins.
“I cannot underscore boldly enough the precarious condition of Toledo’s drinking water system and the imminent vulnerability to failure,” Craig W. Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, seen here at right, wrote in a June 9 letter to Mayor D. Michael Collins.
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Two months before an algae-related toxin caused Toledo officials to impose a drinking-water ban, top city officials, including Mayor D. Michael Collins, were warned by a top state official that lagging plant repairs threatened the plant’s safe operation, according to documents obtained by The Blade.

“I cannot underscore boldly enough the precarious condition of Toledo’s drinking water system and the imminent vulnerability to failure,” Craig W. Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, wrote in a June 9 letter to Mayor D. Michael Collins.

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Read the letter in its entirety

City‘‍s response to EPA

Letter to Public Utilities Director David Welch, Dec. 2, 2013

Letter to Public Utilities Director David Welch, Aug. 7, 2013

Letter to Robert Reinbolt 

Toledo water crisis coverage

Letter from Division of Drinking and Ground Waters

Mr. Butler wrote that the city remained in regulatory violation by having failed to correct problems with the plant’s sedimentation vent and alum system, which were cited for “significant deficiencies” in a Feb. 6 notice.

“The city also does not appear to be on a path to timely comply with the deadlines for the remaining significant deficiencies identified in the June 10, 2013 letter,” he wrote.

The June 9 letter demanded a response with “an acceptable schedule with detailed milestones” to correct the plant’s problems within a week. Absent such response, Mr. Butler said he would draft “a schedule that assures the city can reliably provide safe supplies of water as expeditiously as possible as well as a schedule for long-term planning.”

Included in the documents was a June 16 letter to the EPA chief from Edward Moore, Toledo’‍s Director of Public Utilities. The letter confirmed that Mayor Collins spoke with the director of the EPA on June 11.

There were other EPA letters sent to the city, dating back to January 2013, that discussed deficiencies and potential failures in Toledo‘‍s water system. 

In the opening paragraph of the June 9 letter to Mr. Collins, the EPA chief said he was concerned about the lack of progress being made to improve the city’‍s public water system, in particular the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant. 

Mr. Butler said the plant “is vulnerable to potential failures that could impact the City‘‍s ability to provide adequate quantities of safe water to citizens.”

Thursday night, mayoral spokesman Lisa Ward said the mayor was not immediately available for comment.


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