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Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins raises a glass of tap water before drinking it during a news conference in Toledo, Ohio, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. A water ban that had hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio and Michigan scrambling for drinking water has been lifted, Collins announced Monday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Toledo mayor lifts water ban in northwest Ohio
First Published Aug 04 2014 08:44 am • Last Updated Aug 04 2014 09:10 am

Toledo, Ohio • A water ban that had hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio and Michigan scrambling for drinking water has been lifted, Toledo’s mayor announced Monday.

Mayor D. Michael Collins called the drinking water safe and lifted the ban at a Monday morning news conference.

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"Our water is safe," Collins said. "Families can return to normal life."

Ohio’s fourth-largest city warned residents not to use city water early Saturday after tests at one treatment plant showed readings for microcystin above the standard for consumption, most likely from algae on Lake Erie. Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency.

At a 3 a.m. Monday news conference, Collins said he decided to keep the advisory in place, even though latest test results suggest the algae-induced toxin contaminating the lake had probably dissipated to safe levels. The mayor said two tests had come back "too close for comfort."

Later Monday, Collins said six new test results came back without traces of the toxin.

The mayor said carbon was added to the water at the point of intake and that chlorine was also added into the system to help clean the water.

"This isn’t an exact science," he said.

City officials recommended that residents who had not used their water since the ban started flush out their systems by running water. They also cautioned everyone not to all do it at once, and told people not to water lawns or wash cars at the risk of overwhelming the system.

Kasich said the state would be conducting a full review of what happened, including taking a look into Toledo’s water intake system. He said it’s still not clear whether the algae bloom that was centered where Toledo draws water in the lake was entirely to blame.


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"We just don’t know," Kasich said.

The governor said the most important thing now is to focus on the operating side. He said the state would continue to determine how to reduce the algae problem.

"We were able to get through this; I know it was difficult," said Kasich, who pointed out that state, local and federal agencies worked throughout the weekend together to solve the problem.

With the warning, worried residents told not to drink, brush their teeth or wash dishes with the water descended on truckloads of bottled water delivered from across the state. The Ohio National Guard was using water purification systems to produce drinkable water.

Some hospitals canceled elective surgeries and were sending surgical equipment that needed sterilized to facilities outside the water emergency, said Bryan Biggie, disaster coordinator for ProMedica hospitals in Toledo.

In southeastern Michigan, authorities were operating water stations Sunday for the 30,000 customers affected by the toxic contamination.

Drinking the water could cause vomiting, cramps and rashes. But no serious illnesses had been reported by late Sunday. Health officials advised children and those with weak immune systems to avoid showering or bathing in the water.

Amid the emergency, discussion began to center around how to stop the pollutants fouling the lake that supplies drinking water for 11 million people. The toxins that contaminated the region’s drinking water supply didn’t just suddenly appear.

Collins said that, going forward, scientists and political leaders need to come together and figure out how to address the algae problem in Lake Erie.

"It didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not getting out of this overnight," Collins said.

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.

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