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Published: Monday, 8/18/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toxin levels down after weekend scare

Officials: Water safe, tests ‘really good’


After another weekend water scare, city of Toledo officials assured the public on Sunday that Toledo’s water is safe to drink.

“The numbers were really good today,” said Tim Murphy, commissioner of water treatment.

“Today we’re nondetect across the board,” he said, meaning that the algae-related toxin microcystin was at nondetectable levels in the treated water leaving the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant in East Toledo.

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On Saturday afternoon, city officials notified the public that the water was safe to drink — but that the tested levels of microcystin came close to the point requiring a do-not-consume advisory.

Tests taken Saturday showed the level of toxin in the raw and treated water at the plant had fallen, and it continued to fall on Sunday, easing immediate fears of another water crisis like the one Aug. 2-4.

Lisa Ward, spokesman for Mayor D. Michael Collins, said the city plans to notify the public whenever the level of microcystin exceeds 0.5 parts per billion — the same level that requires the city to notify the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Microcystin is emitted by blue-green microcystis algae that have bloomed in western Lake Erie for several weeks.

At 1 part per billion, the city must issue a do-not-consume advisory to the public. Toledo provides water for the city and for other communities in Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Monroe counties.

Ms. Ward said the bloom has moved on, after a flare-up that appeared to be related to the storm last week.

“We had that storm, and it increased turbidity in the lake, and it stirred up the algae. We were lucky. It had finally moved away from the intake. In the Aug. 1st incident, the main part of the algae bloom was parked right at our intake,” Ms. Ward said.

A sample test that returned a 0.972 part per billion result was taken Friday at the plant, according to Ms. Ward. In response, city technicians increased the use of chlorine, which could cause a slight chlorine odor, and alum, which could cause a harmless surface film on water in cups or containers.

Tests taken on Saturday evening and returned about 1 a.m. Sunday revealed a result of 0.456 part per billion in the treated water before it was sent through the distribution system.

On Thursday, raw-water samples from Toledo’s intake crib — prior to treatment — tested at 50 parts per billion for microcystin, Mr. Murphy said those raw-water samples were down to 14 parts per billion by Sunday afternoon. Because the raw-water numbers were so low, the city did not do additional tests at the 33 distribution points.

Of 33 distribution samples that were tested Saturday, all were found to be clear, Ms. Ward said. Eighteen were below a 0.30 parts per billion threshold, which means “nondetect,” and the others ranged from 0.302 to 0.406 parts per billion.

“We’re just going to be a little more proactive so when we get to the point where we have to notify the EPA, we’re going to keep notifying the public,” she said.

Tests taken on the evening of Aug. 1 and early morning of Aug. 2 at the Toledo water plant showed microcystin exceeding 1 part per billion in the treated water, which prompted officials to issue a do-not-drink order that remained in effect until midmorning Aug. 4.

Ms. Ward said the city’s request for conservation is helping to reduce the demand for water and keeping water at the treatment facility longer and reducing the need for — and the cost of — chemicals.

Ms. Ward said the Friday night alert gave her an opportunity to try out a new text-alert system the city had implemented to notify Toledo city councilmen.

She said citizens can sign up for those alerts at the city’s Web site.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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