Toledo mayor ask­ing for help to stem al­gae

Res­i­dents snap up bot­tled wa­ter dur­ing scare

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NATION - By John Seewer

TOLEDO, Ohio — Three years after toxic al­gae in Lake Erie tainted the drink­ing wa­ter for more than 400,000 peo­ple, many are still leery about what’s com­ing out of their faucets.

Some have taken to stock­pil­ing bot­tled wa­ter in the sum­mer months when al­gae blooms blan­ket the western end in the shal­low­est of the Great Lakes.

Store shelves were emp­tied of bot­tled wa­ter a week ago when al­gae pushed into a river that flows through down­town Toledo into the lake, turn­ing the river flu­o­res­cent green and spark­ing ru­mors that an­other “do not drink” ad­vi­sory was loom­ing.

It wasn’t the first time there’s been a run on bot­tled wa­ter, though there have been no wa­ter warn­ings since the first one in 2014.

Toledo’s mayor has asked Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for help from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in clean­ing up the lake and wants the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency to de­clare the western end im­paired, which would al­low for in­creased pol­lu­tion reg­u­la­tions.

“There is some­thing very wrong with our coun­try when our rivers and lakes turn green,” Mayor Paula Hicks-Hud­son wrote in a let­ter sent to Trump last week. “As I look out my of­fice at a green river, I can tell you one thing: the sta­tus quo is not work­ing.”

Sci­en­tists largely blame farm fer­til­izer runoff and mu­nic­i­pal sewage over­flows for feed­ing the al­gae growth. While there are a num­ber of ef­forts to tackle the prob­lem, it won’t be solved for years.

The uncertainty some still have about the Toledo’s drink­ing wa­ter, the mayor said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day, shows there’s a gen­eral mis­trust about what some hear from gov­ern­ment lead­ers and how eas­ily ru­mors spread.

She pointed to the wa­ter cri­sis in Flint, Michi­gan, and how res­i­dents there were told the wa­ter was safe for months de­spite dan­ger­ous lead lev­els.

“We’re go­ing to do what we can to re­gain their trust,” said Hicks-Hud­son, a Demo­crat who’s up for re-elec­tion in Novem­ber. “That’s all we can do.”

She said she has spent many hours talk­ing with res­i­dents and re­as­sur­ing them the wa­ter is safe.

“Some will give me a sus­pi­cious look,” she said.

The tap wa­ter, she said, is tested daily and more of­ten than the state re­quires. The city also has in­vested in up­grad­ing its treat­ment plant, and there’s an early warn­ing sys­tem in the lake to no­tify the plant’s op­er­a­tors when toxic al­gae is in­creas­ing.

The city also has cre­ated a site that shows the daily tests on raw and treated wa­ter. But that’s not enough for some.

Tam­mie Nixon, of Toledo, said her fam­ily hasn’t drunk the city’s wa­ter since of­fi­cials is­sued a “do not drink” for two days in Septem­ber 2014. She was preg­nant at the time and now also has a 3-month-old.

“Def­i­nitely not with the kids,” she said while load­ing jugs of milk and wa­ter into her car at the gro­cery. “It’s kind of scary. There’s only so much you can fil­ter out.”

Andy Mor­ri­son The As­so­ci­ated Press

A cat­fish ap­pears Sept. 20 on the shore­line in the al­gae-filled wa­ters at the end of 113th Street in the Point Place sec­tion of North Toledo, Ohio.

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