Toxic tap water in Toledo remains undrinkable pending more tests

Posted at 4:40 AM, Aug 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-04 04:40:49-04

TOLEDO, Ohio (CNN) — Residents of Ohio’s fourth largest city will have to wait a little longer to use their tap water.

Tests conducted by both the state and federal Environmental Protection Agency showed high levels of toxin levels in two neighborhoods in Toledo, Mayor D. Michael Collins said early Monday.

Instead of isolating the two neighborhoods, the mayor said he’ll keep the ban on drinking or using tap water in the entire city of Toledo until additional tests are completed. He declined to provide specifics on the name of neighborhoods in question nor on how high the toxin levels are.

“A majority of areas are satisfactory, but we have two areas of concern,” he said at a news conference.

As many as 400,000 people were told not to consume, cook with, or boil the tap water after a toxin called microcystin was found in the water supply Friday. Collins told reporters the advisories will remain in effect until further notice.

Toledo’s drinking water comes from Lake Erie, where a harmful algae bloom that causes microcystin has been growing.

The city has set up distribution centers for potable water where members of the Ohio National Guard, fire officials, and other first responders are handing out safe water.

About 350 Ohio National Guardsmen have been activated by the governor, according to a U.S. Defense Department official, who added that they have set up three reverse osmosis water purification unit sites at two high schools and a police facility. The guardsmen have also delivered ready-to-eat meals, the official said.

Lining up for water

About two-thirds of the Toledo area population is affected by the water warning. Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued a state of emergency for Fulton, Lucas, and Wood counties. The potential contamination also affects four municipalities in Michigan, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported.

There are no reports of anyone getting sick from the water, officials said.

When certain conditions are present, such as high nutrient or light levels, algae can reproduce rapidly, forming a dense population known as a “bloom,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Testing is crucial because NOAA says it can’t determine just from images whether blooms are toxic.

Ingestion of the toxin can affect the liver and cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and acute liver failure, according to NOAA. But the Ohio state emergency management agency said it is safe for adults to shower and for everyone to wash their hands.