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Toledo Mayor Lifts Water Ban, Says 'Our Water Is Safe'

Grant Buehrer, a student at Ohio State University, volunteers to load a 5-pound bag of fresh drinking water into a vehicle on Sunday.
Haraz N. Ghanbari
Grant Buehrer, a student at Ohio State University, volunteers to load a 5-pound bag of fresh drinking water into a vehicle on Sunday.

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Water Is Safe:

"Our water is safe."

That's the word this morning from Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, who lifted a 3-day-old ban on using the city's water supply.

During a televised press conference, Collins said the 400,000 people affected can start drinking, bathing and cooking with the water now that the level of the toxin microcystin has stabilized below what the World Health Organization deems acceptable.

Microcystin is a byproduct of blooming algae in Lake Erie.

Collins said the lake has suffered because of runoff coming from farms, lawns and solid waste.

"We have not been good stewards of this natural resource," Collins said, adding that he hopes the water crisis will spur action locally and federally.

Officials in Toledo asked residents to run their water for 15 minutes before drinking it.

Our Original Post Continues:

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins decided to keep a water ban in effect on Monday, even though tests from the the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that toxins in the drinking water likely had dissipated to levels the World Health Organization considers safe.

As we reported, cities in northwest Ohio have told residents not use city water, because it was contaminated by the toxin microcystin that was more than likely produced by blooming algae in Lake Erie. More than 400,000 people have been affected by the ban.

The Toledo Blade reports:

" '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.

"While there is no state or federally mandated limit for microcystin, the potentially deadly toxin in a harmful form of blue-green algae known as microcystis, the World Health Organization has recommended that the drinking water concentration be kept at 1.0 ppb or less."

Toledo News Now reports that Collins said 12 out of 30 tests have come back clean and that only two of the other tests have shown levels above the acceptable range.

"I am not going to make a decision to expose this city until I'm comfortable," Collins said.

The Associated Press reports on the big picture:

"Water plant operators along western Lake Erie have long been worried about this very scenario as a growing number of algae blooms have turned the water into a pea soup color in recent summers, leaving behind toxins that can sicken people and kill pets.

"In fact, the problems on the shallowest of the five Great Lakes brought on by farm runoff and sludge from sewage treatment plants have been building for more than a decade.

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a satellite image showing a small but concentrated algae bloom centered right where Toledo draws its water supply, said Jeff Reutter, head of the Ohio Sea Grant research lab."

Meanwhile, residents of the area will continue to scramble to find water to drink, cook and bathe.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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