The Stories...so far
EXPERTS COMMENT ON TOLEDO WATER CRISIS
James P. Bruce International Joint Commission (IJC)
Jim is the Canadian Policy Representative for the Soil and Water Conservation Society and serves as a
consultant on climate change adaptation, water management, and natural disaster mitigation.
Water Today - What were your first thoughts when you heard about the Toledo water crisis?
Jim Bruce - I was thinking that this is another manifestation of blue green algae and the dangers of
phosphorous in our rivers and lakes. With the increased heavy rainfalls caused by climate change, we are now getting a lot more runoff from rural and cities. Phosphorous is quickly available
and dissolved in the runoff.
Water Today - Is this problem threatening cities on the Great Lakes in Canada as well?
Jim Bruce - We don't have many big places on our side of Lake Erie, London for example takes its water from Huron.
Leamington, Kingsville and Wheatley are on Erie. I don't know if they pull their water from Erie but they should be very careful if they are .
NOTE: Our research confirms that the source of water for all three Canadian cities is Lake Erie. We are trying to reach them for comments.
Water Today - Is there any way for municipalities to avoid the contamination of their water systems?
Jim Bruce - What cyanobacteria does is produce microcystins, it is possible
to remove this in the water treatment process. With the $ 1 million Toledo spent on extra chemicals, they should have been able to deploy the fix to take raw water and turn it into potable.
Water Today - Is blue-green one of the priorities with the IJC ?
Jim Bruce - Yes it is a high priority
and the report, A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie - Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms, released in February 2104 is availabe on the IJC site.
In the meantime, Toledo residents and businesses should get water that isn't sourced from Erie until otherwise notified.
Update 1:35 pm
Wayne Carmichael, Ph.D., Professor, Emeritus Wright State University
Biology - Current Research: Harmful algal blooms (HAB's)
Water Today - According to the Toledo Blade, chemists found as much as 2.5 parts-per-million of (HAB) at the Collins Park water-treatment plant in East Toledo? How harmful is that to people's health?
Wayne Carmichael - In the Toledo Blade article the following statement is made:
David Grossman, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, said a safe level of microcystin is 0, but an allowable level is below 1. At the Collins Park plant, water was testing as high as 2.5 parts per million, Dr. Grossman said. As long as the level remains below 20 parts per million, it is safe to shower and bathe. It is OK to drink well water.
This leads me to understand that microcystin is in the finished water at 2.5 ppm. This is above the guideline value set by WHO of 1 ppb. I? suspect the number they mean is 2.5 ppb (parts per billion) not ppm (parts per million).
Water Today - The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, Dr. Grossman says that
as long as the level remains below 20 parts-per-million, it is safe to shower and bathe, do you agree?
Wayne Carmichael Again-I think they mean 20 ppb not 20 ppm. There is a big difference.
Water Today - The City of Toledo says it spent an additional $1 million on chemicals to help protect the city's water supply from Lake Erie's algae last summer. Is there a treatment for HAB that works for cities?
Wayne Carmichael - Yes
Water Today - Presumably this situation could happen in other cities on Erie. What are your thoughts?
Wayne Carmichael- Yes it could happen to any city with water conditions that promote cyanobacteria blooms producing cyanotoxins.
Water Today - Do you have any other comments on this situation?
Wayne Carmichael - A well thought out state and national policy on freshwater harmful algae blooms of cyanobacteria could have lessened the indecision and unnecessary public distress? ?this outbreak has caused.?
Dale Dillen is the operations manager
for a treatment plant that
supplies water to four municipalities on Lake Erie: Kingsville, Leamington, Essex and part of Lakeshore Township.
"We have an online blue-green analyser and right now the levels are acceptable; but as far as I know it it doesn't test for microcystins. We'd have to send samples to an accredited lab for microcystin analysis," he says.
The plant takes samples once a week for Microcystin-LR and will be doing so on Tuesday because of the civic holiday. If plant managers see high algae (visual) they will also take a sample for microcystins.
Tests are usually done every Monday and if operators see an algae increase later in the week, they will send a sample by courier to a central Ontario analytic laboratory, where it takes a week approximately to get results.
If samples test positive for microcystins then they are sent to the Ontario Ministry of Environment where they are tested for microcystin-LR. As of this article Dale hasn't seen more algae than usual and says that he isn't privy to the Toledo tests.
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