Monday, August 04, 2014

Ohio’s Water Crisis is a Warning to all States

Approximately 400,000 people in and around Toledo, Ohio are being warned not to drink their tap water after high levels of a dangerous toxin were discovered in the water supply Saturday, according to the Toledo-Lucas County Department of Health.

The toxin is called microcystin, the high levels of which were caused by massive increases in algae on Lake Erie. The increases in algae, called “algae blooms”, are poisonous if consumed — causing abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness, and dizziness. Boiling the water doesn’t help — in fact, it increases the presence of the toxin.

Experts say one of the biggest reasons for the severity of this algal bloom is excess phosphorus runoff from urban and industrial agricultural lands, as well as from waste water from sewage treatment plants

As of now, it’s unclear when Toledo residents will have clean water again. According to the Toledo Blade, fresh water samples are being flown to a specialized U.S. Environmental Protection Agency laboratory in Cincinnati, which will determine the extent of the contamination.

The last EPA National Lakes Assessment noted that out of more than 123,000 lakes greater than 10 acres in size spread across the U.S., at least one-third may contain the toxic algae.

It’s not just the U.S., either. The Polish Journal of Environmental Studies which noted that toxic algae blooms have also shown themselves in China, Japan, Brazil, and Australia. Researchers there called the worldwide increase in blooms “one of the most serious health risks of the 21st century.”

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