Story by the Associated Press; curated by Zach Noble and Dave Urbanski
UPDATE, 7:45 p.m.: TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich said all of the state’s agencies are working to bring water and other supplies to areas around Toledo where some 400,000 are being told not to drink from the city’s water system.
Kasich told The Associated Press it’s too early to say how long the water advisory will last and what triggered it.
Ohio officials are awaiting the results of more tests on the water that could determine how much longer residents in and around the state’s fourth-largest city are without water.
Toledo officials issued the warning early Saturday after tests revealed the presence of a toxin possibly from algae on Lake Erie.
Ohio’s EPA director said the agency is trying to figure out what caused a sudden spike in the toxins.
UPDATE, 2:47 p.m.: The mayor of Ohio’s fourth-largest city says water will be flowing into the Toledo area from all corners of the state to help the 400,000 people who are being warned not to drink the city’s water.
Toledo’s mayor says water is coming from Akron, Cincinnati and even a prison near Columbus.
Original story below
Story by the Associated Press; curated by Zach Noble
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Toxins possibly from algae on Lake Erie fouled the water supply of the state’s fourth-largest city Saturday, forcing officials to issue warnings not to drink the water and the governor to declare a state of emergency as worried residents descended on stores, quickly clearing shelves of bottled water.
“It looked like Black Friday,” said Aundrea Simmons, who stood in a line of about 50 people at a pharmacy before buying four cases of water. “I have children and elderly parents. They take their medication with water.”
The city advised about 400,000 residents in Toledo, most of its suburbs and a few areas in southeastern Michigan not to brush their teeth with or boil the water because that would only increase the toxin’s concentration. Showers and baths are fine, the mayor said.
Toledo issued the warning just after midnight after tests at one treatment plant showed two sample readings for microsystin above the standard for consumption.
Gov. John Kasich’s emergency order will allow the state to begin bringing water into the Toledo area.
Toledo leaders were setting up water distribution centers around the city, limiting families to one case of bottled water. Some stores that were receiving new shipments of water putting limits on how much people can buy.
“We’re going to be prepared to make sure people are not without water,” Mayor D. Michael Collins said.
He said at a news conference that city officials hope to know later Saturday how long the warning will stay in place, and he pleaded with residents not to panic. There were no reports yet of people becoming sick from drinking the water, Collins said.
Sample of water were flown to the federal and state Environmental Protection Agency offices in Cincinnati and Columbus for additional testing, officials said.
Police officers were called to stores as residents lined up to buy bottled water, bags of ice and flavored water.
“People were hoarding it. It’s ridiculous,” said Monica Morales, who bought several cases of bottled water before the store sold out of water a half-hour after opening.
Some neighboring communities that aren’t connected to Toledo’s water system were offering their water to people who brought their own bottles and containers.
The city’s advisory said Lake Erie may have been affected by a bloom of harmful algae that produces the toxin. Consuming the tainted water could result in vomiting, diarrhea and other problems.
The advisory covers city residents and those in Lucas County served by the city’s water supply. The city said more tests are being run.
Toledo asked restaurants to close for the day because of the water warning. Toledo’s public school system canceled all its events Saturday.
The University of Toledo closed its campus for the day and encouraged students who are from outside the Toledo area to return to their homes.
Operators of water plants all along Lake Erie, which supplies drinking water for 11 million people, have been concerned over the last few years about toxins fouling their supplies.
Almost a year ago, one township just east of Toledo told its 2,000 residents not to drink or use the water coming from their taps after tests on drinking water showed the amount of toxins had increased.
That was believed to be the first time a city has banned residents from using the water because of toxins from algae in the lake.
Most water treatment plants along the western Lake Erie shoreline treat their water to combat the algae. The city of Toledo spent about $4 million last year on chemicals to treat its water and combat the toxins.
The annual algae blooms have been concentrated around the western end of Lake Erie. The algae growth is fed by phosphorous mainly from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants, leaving behind toxins that can kill animals and sicken humans.