The ban had been imposed because a blue-green algae bloom called microcystis produced a toxin that managed to get past the city's treatment system and taint the water supply. The toxin can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and damage to the liver and the body's immune system. Although there are no state or federal standards for an allowable level of microcystin in drinking water, the World Health Organization has set a provisional guideline of 1.0 part per billion.
Growth of algae blooms explodes in summer when temperatures are right. They feed on nutrients in waste, including phosphorous from leaky septic systems and sewer pipe discharges, as well as run-off from farms and feedlots.
While many residents were no doubt relieved after scurrying around all weekend to buy supplies of bottled water, not everybody is happy with the way the situation has been handled, Kiley Kroh reports at Think Progress.
There's more below the fold.
For instance, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio's 9th District, which encompasses Toledo, was critical of a lack of transparency. She told the Toledo Blade:
In all the meetings we've been in, we've been given nothing. Every time I asked [the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] to provide information, they defered to the Ohio EPA. We've not been given anything tangible. [...] I'm calling on the U.S. EPA to release its findings.The figures provided to the media put the range of contamination at 1.5 ppb to 2.5 ppb, with an apparent spike to 3 ppb that Kaptur said was mentioned by an EPA official during a conference call.
“What exactly they’re doing is pretty much ambiguous right now,” said Andrew Whelton, an environmental engineer who recently conducted federally-funded research on the toxic effect of West Virginia’s massive chemical contamination, on Sunday evening. Whelton said he was troubled most by the fact that the public has been kept in the dark regarding which tests are being done and the data being used as the basis for official decisions. “The emergency response officials and the politicians have basically assumed complete control for all decisions of this process and there’s zero transparency,” he said. [...]Kroh reported that Kaptur told her:
Today there’s a sense of relief but also there is a lingering doubt as to what’s going to happen now. I really think we need a professional approach in engaging those who are the most knowledgeable and not secretive or obfuscating but enlightening the public because this is going to take a gigantic regional effort to prevent further damage.”Transparency can go a long way in building credibility for, and trust in, agencies charged with dealing with such crises. But the general tendency of governments to come to decisions behind closed doors is deeply ingrained. Citizens, whether in Toledo or elsewhere, ought to work to get rid of that reflexive approach in their public servants.