Seven Ohio Drinking Water Sources Don’t Meet State Water Quality Standards for Toxic Algae

Graphic © Codi Kozacek / Circle of Blue

Seven lakes, reservoirs and rivers that supply drinking water to approximately 1 million people in Ohio have repeatedly exceeded safe levels of a toxin that can cause sickness and liver damage, according to a state water quality report. The toxin, produced by algae, rendered the water undrinkable earlier this month for more than 400,000 people in the Toledo area.

The drinking water sources found to contain the toxin serve seven cities including Toledo, Akron and Lima. Though these cities have largely been able to treat the water to make it safe, the water plants in Toledo and Carroll Township—a small community in Ottawa County—have both been forced to issue “Do Not Drink” advisories in the past year.

In Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio’s largest inland lake, toxin levels have been so high that people are advised not to swim in the water. The drinking water and beach warnings represent a danger to public health that has reemerged in the past decade after state, federal and international efforts largely ridded Lake Erie of toxic algae blooms in the 1980s. Treating the toxins are costing cities millions of dollars, while water shutoffs and unsightly blooms can hurt businesses from restaurants to charter boats.

The findings about the growing threat to Ohio’s drinking water safety were contained in a biennial assessment of water quality conducted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The assessment was released in February but attracted little attention until August 2 when Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink” advisory due to high levels of algae toxins in its treated water. Circle of Blue reviewed the draft report this week.

The assessment included algae toxins for the first time this year and listed the following drinking water sources as “impaired”, meaning levels of toxins were higher than the state’s threshold for safe drinking water at least two separate times in five years. The toxins were found in the water supplies before they were treated and used for drinking water. After being treated, the water from these sources was within safety limits.

This story originally appeared on Circle of Blue. Read the full article here.