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The PJ Tatler

by
Rick Moran

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August 2, 2014 - 1:16 pm

The 400,000 residents of Wood and Lucas County, Ohio — including the state’s 4th largest city Toledo — are without drinking water with no guess as to when it will be safe to drink.

Algae blooms in Lake Erie that produce toxic bacteria are responsible for the crisis. Governor Kasich has declared a state of emergency and water supplies are pouring in from all over the state.

The blooms have become an annual event along Lake Erie’s shores as runoff from agricultural and industrial sources cause the algae to experience runaway growth. The algae releases toxins that, if sucked into water treatment plants, make the water undrinkable.

USA Today:

News of the contaminated water touched off a shopping frenzy at area stores for bottled water and bags of ice. Shelves were emptied of bottles and other water supplies, as residents prepared for the worst.

“First and foremost, residents must remain calm,” Toledo Mayor Michael Collins said at a morning press conference.

Toledo officials issued the warning early Saturday after tests at the city’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant showed two sample readings for microcystin above the standard for consumption. The plant provides treatment services to an area of approximately 400,000 people across 100 square miles, according to The Toledo Blade.

Officials said the water is not for drinking or cooking but healthy adults could still use the water for bathing. They warned children not to bathe or swim in it, as they might drink the water accidentally. Residents were warned not to boil the water because it will only increase the toxin’s concentration. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upset stomach.

In a press release, the city of Toledo said the toxins likely came from harmful algal blooms in nearby Lake Erie.

“These organisms are capable of producing a number of toxins that may pose a risk to human and animal health,” the release said.

Area zoos and restaurants closed, and the University of Toledo announced it will be closed Saturday and all non-health-care functions canceled. Toledo Lucas-County Public Libraries also announced closings.

“We’re testing the water. We’ll have updated test results later this afternoon,” Lisa Ward, Collin’s spokesperson, told the Toledo Free Press. “We are currently working to restore water supplies and working on a different water distribution.”

Meanwhile, other municipalities were making their own arrangements. Luna Pier, Mich., officials were making plans to funnel water from Monroe Township, according to the Free Press. Fire trucks will pick up the water and residents will be able to fill water bottles after noon Saturday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted something like this would happen weeks ago:

The reemergence of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie is an ecological and economic setback for communities along the coast,” said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, from Ohio’s 9th congressional district. Kaptur said NOAA’s forecast model is one of several emerging tools aimed at trying to “restore balance to Lake Erie’s ecosystem.”

The blooms form during the late summer and early fall, and were particularly aggressive from the 1960s to the 1980s, according to NOAA. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports banning phosphorus in laundry soap in 1988 helped put the brakes on the toxins — for a few years.

But phosphorus from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants continues to accumulate along Ohio’s shores, and the blooms have become more frequent and troublesome in the shallow Lake Erie in the past decade. The blooms have been blamed for contributing to oxygen-depleted dead zones in the lake where fish can’t survive and forcing cities to spend more money to treat drinking water.

Rick Stumpf, a researcher with NOAA, said the algae bloom in 2013 was worse than expected because of heavy July rain.

“If we have an exceptionally wet July, we may revise the forecast,” Stumpf told The Blade. “But it won’t be lower than it is now.”

The lake was also warm by June 2013, contributing to the outbreak, the researcher said. The lake is believed to be about as warm as it was last summer, said Tom Bridgeman, an algae researcher at the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center.

Lake Erie is a lot cleaner than it used it be — one of the true success stories brought to us by the Clean Water Act.  But contaminated runoff close to the shores of all the Great Lakes threatens not only the water supplies of communities, but the economies of the small towns and hamlets that depend heavily on tourism and sport fishing.

In the last decade or so, the government has been working with farmers and industry to reduce runoff into streams and rivers that flow into the Great Lakes while also trying to reduce pesticide and fertilizer contamination. It will take years for these policies to bear fruit, which means there will probably be more nightmares like the one in Ohio in the future.

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I'm a geochemist...let me try to answer your questions.

First, Lake Erie is weird. It's a really big lake...the 10th largest in the world (which is why it would be very, very difficult to artificially oxygenate with current technology)...but it is really shallow; it's the shallowest of the Great Lakes. The deepest point would only just barely cover a 20 story building. Because it is so shallow, it is also unusually warm since the sun can warm so much of it's total water volume.

Water holds oxygen inversely with temperature. So, cold water can be rich in oxygen and warm water is often oxygen-poor. Therefore, even before we mess with the system an talk about algae, it's important to know that Lake Erie, specifically, is already commonly oxygen-poor.

You get an algae bloom when phosphates or nitrates get into the water...that's the same stuff in fertilizer and since algae are plants, it starts a growth explosion. Some, but not all, varieties of algae produce toxins...this is a separate, but related, problem to lake oxygen. The toxin-buildup issue is what is making the Toledo water unsafe, not the anoxia (dangerously low oxygen for fish). The lake becomes anoxic when you have a large algae bloom. As algae decompose, the oxygen is drawn down and that's when the fish start to die. Since Lake Erie is already low-oxygen, it's a real problem. The algae aren't prevented by oxygen, they are prevented by eliminating the phosphates and nitrates...mostly agricultural runoff, as Mannie explained (expertly) below.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've been a Civil Engineer (They don't pay us any more than the rude ones.) for over 40 years. Here is a nutshell synopsis of the situation. The big picture is more complex. It always is.

The bugbear, here, is not Industrial Pollution. With the exception of some law violators who periodically get busted, we pretty much solved industrial pollution decades ago. They are what they call "point source discharges," and they are relatively easy to deal with. "That pipe - clean it up."

The next step is municipal stormwater discharges. They are starting to come under heavy regulatory scrutiny. Everything you dump into the storm sewers, ends up in a stream, lake or river, mostly untreated. This includes sewer overflows, motor oil washed off the roads, de-icing salt, dog poo in the gutter, Chem-Lawn(tm) runoff from your front yard, and soap from washing your car. (This is the reason for those controversial car wash bans.) It is a death of a million cuts, but they ad up. We may see municipal stormwater treatment plants in our future, but there is an incredibly large number of individual outlets. We are already having to put things like oil separators in storm sewers. Pesticides and fertilizers are a thornier problem.

The third leg, and nearly unregulated, is agricultural runoff. It is called "Non Point Source Discharge." The whole field runs off into a ditch or creek. This carries soil, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer. There is no outfall pipe to point at and say, "Clean it up." This is the other side of the EPA's controversial attempt to grab jurisdiction over every rivulet on private land. Pollution flows down stream, off your land, onto mine, and down stream across multiple jurisdictions and state lines.

In the case of Toledo, it seems that the fertilizers are the problem. The toxin comes from algae. Algae are plants. The runoff adds fertilizer to the plants. The plants grow faster. These particular plants poison you.

Control of non point source discharges has been stymied by the Agricultural Lobby, but to give them their due, too much regulation, here, could destroy the agro industry. How much more do you want to pay for your food? We are still the Breadbasket of the World.

I don't know what treatment processes will remove the toxin. I believe that adding a Reverse Osmosis filter to your house water will filter the stuff out. But RO is expensive. I don't know about activated carbon, but it might, and is much cheaper. These technologies can also be applied at the municipal water treatment plant scale, but again, they are expensive.

15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
So lets import 20 quitrillion more people.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (27)
All Comments   (27)
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Honest question, and maybe I am naive, but wouldn't it be worth the expense to the water boards of the adjacent states to oxygenate the lake? How expensive is hydrogen peroxide? Mechanical aeration? Cheaper than all that bottled water, I would guess. If they prevent the algae with oxygen, they prevent the toxins. Too late for this summer, but I would expect it to be a priority every spring and summer from now on.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm a geochemist...let me try to answer your questions.

First, Lake Erie is weird. It's a really big lake...the 10th largest in the world (which is why it would be very, very difficult to artificially oxygenate with current technology)...but it is really shallow; it's the shallowest of the Great Lakes. The deepest point would only just barely cover a 20 story building. Because it is so shallow, it is also unusually warm since the sun can warm so much of it's total water volume.

Water holds oxygen inversely with temperature. So, cold water can be rich in oxygen and warm water is often oxygen-poor. Therefore, even before we mess with the system an talk about algae, it's important to know that Lake Erie, specifically, is already commonly oxygen-poor.

You get an algae bloom when phosphates or nitrates get into the water...that's the same stuff in fertilizer and since algae are plants, it starts a growth explosion. Some, but not all, varieties of algae produce toxins...this is a separate, but related, problem to lake oxygen. The toxin-buildup issue is what is making the Toledo water unsafe, not the anoxia (dangerously low oxygen for fish). The lake becomes anoxic when you have a large algae bloom. As algae decompose, the oxygen is drawn down and that's when the fish start to die. Since Lake Erie is already low-oxygen, it's a real problem. The algae aren't prevented by oxygen, they are prevented by eliminating the phosphates and nitrates...mostly agricultural runoff, as Mannie explained (expertly) below.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for that! Excellent post.

15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've been a Civil Engineer (They don't pay us any more than the rude ones.) for over 40 years. Here is a nutshell synopsis of the situation. The big picture is more complex. It always is.

The bugbear, here, is not Industrial Pollution. With the exception of some law violators who periodically get busted, we pretty much solved industrial pollution decades ago. They are what they call "point source discharges," and they are relatively easy to deal with. "That pipe - clean it up."

The next step is municipal stormwater discharges. They are starting to come under heavy regulatory scrutiny. Everything you dump into the storm sewers, ends up in a stream, lake or river, mostly untreated. This includes sewer overflows, motor oil washed off the roads, de-icing salt, dog poo in the gutter, Chem-Lawn(tm) runoff from your front yard, and soap from washing your car. (This is the reason for those controversial car wash bans.) It is a death of a million cuts, but they ad up. We may see municipal stormwater treatment plants in our future, but there is an incredibly large number of individual outlets. We are already having to put things like oil separators in storm sewers. Pesticides and fertilizers are a thornier problem.

The third leg, and nearly unregulated, is agricultural runoff. It is called "Non Point Source Discharge." The whole field runs off into a ditch or creek. This carries soil, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer. There is no outfall pipe to point at and say, "Clean it up." This is the other side of the EPA's controversial attempt to grab jurisdiction over every rivulet on private land. Pollution flows down stream, off your land, onto mine, and down stream across multiple jurisdictions and state lines.

In the case of Toledo, it seems that the fertilizers are the problem. The toxin comes from algae. Algae are plants. The runoff adds fertilizer to the plants. The plants grow faster. These particular plants poison you.

Control of non point source discharges has been stymied by the Agricultural Lobby, but to give them their due, too much regulation, here, could destroy the agro industry. How much more do you want to pay for your food? We are still the Breadbasket of the World.

I don't know what treatment processes will remove the toxin. I believe that adding a Reverse Osmosis filter to your house water will filter the stuff out. But RO is expensive. I don't know about activated carbon, but it might, and is much cheaper. These technologies can also be applied at the municipal water treatment plant scale, but again, they are expensive.

15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
For decades the proposed solution to agri runoff has been to plant 'riparian buffers', which are trees, shrubs and grasses, along creek and stream banks. The plants absorb the fertilizers. Is this not being pursued?
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not enough. Not nearly enough.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I liked your comment because you identified the issue and potential solutions. I've been a water treatment engineer in my past. What I wonder is, why the problem now? Lake Erie? It's huge! We've had regulatory control over runoff for years. Is this politically motivated by EPA, State environmentalists or is this a real problem? Just asking.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Libtards should hang Al Gore. For more than a decade they claimed everything wrong with the world was Global Warming. We have known that chemical pollutants and acidification of the water ways is far more dangerous. But Global Warming is some sort of crack to a Libtard.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
The short answer is: Liberal greed, liberal corruption and liberal laziness.

The global warming industrial complex has spawned the "carbon credits" and "carbon trading" big money scam so the well-connected can make billions doing nothing but trade in air. The "clean fuels" and "clean energy" rackets; so the well-connected can live high on the hog siphoning money directly from the taxpayers' pockets. The "biofuels" racket (ethanol and palm oil) is another fraud that is causing eco-catastrophe here and in the 3rd world as marginal land is being ruthlessly put to the plow and pumped up with chemical fertilizer to churn out the subsidized crops. The Dust Bowl-era agronomists called this "mining the soil" and we're sucking up our water resources like there's no tomorrow. The across-the-board worldwide food price inflation probably has everything to do with the "Arab Spring" as dictators the world over can no longer afford to subsidize food and fuel (the modern version of "bread and circuses"). Plus rainforests are being chopped down for palm oil plantations ("biodiesel") and powerless villagers are being booted off the land they have worked for generations but do not have clear title to.

The laziness part is because "greenhouse gasses" are a "global" problem, the usual suspects do not have undertake projects that can be measured. Replant a forest? Clean up a watershed? Why take on hard, difficult tasks when Leo DeCaprio and Julia Roberts can pose on icebergs and dress up in leafy outfits for the cover of Vanity Fair? Just be seen "raising awareness" and sipping champagne at the usual four-star glamor conferences to get your chits.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are several references in the article to "industrial" runoff exacerbating the problem. Is that really true? Or is the true source of the problem fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants? Industry has been required to be pretty clean for many years now. I wonder how well the Detroit sewage treatment plants are working these days.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
The treatment plant discharges are monitored by the State and Federal EPAs, so I suspect they are not the problem. The problem is probably agricultural runoff, a much more difficult problem to solve.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yup. Industrial and sewage treatment discharges are visible, fixed targets. Municipal storm runoff and agricultural runoff cannot be traced to a handful of locations.

Agriculturally speaking, I'm betting that our corn ethanol obsession has everything to do with worsening fertilizer runoff and those "dead zones." If George Soros and Warren Buffet are buying up farmland you know something is very fishy.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
So lets import 20 quitrillion more people.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know how liberals advocate for smart growth with a straight face, when you keep adding people. You can only jam so many people into a space.

At some point you get overflow.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>I don't know how liberals advocate for smart growth with a straight face..

Because they're pathological liars and criminals?
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
You forgot, "stupid". Don't forget the stupid! It explains a lot.

No, not all of it, especially not the leadership, but for the masses? Yes, stupid explains a lot.

15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leftists just can't stand Americans being able to live and travel as they please. The peasants must be concentrated into hives where they can be controlled.

I'm just wondering who is going to be the first to recommend internal passports.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Psssst!

Punning opp. nearby:

"It will take years for these policies to bear fruit,......"
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oddly, a big cause of this ecological problem is a curious, positive side-effect of another ecological problem. Foreign zebra mussels have established themselves after hitching rides on ships. They're populations have exploded and are causing all kinds of nuisance...but they are also extremely efficient water-filterers. They've dramatically improved water clarity...removing particulates and pollutants. Unfortunately, better water clarity means more sunlight penetrating to a greater depth, and that means better conditions for algae.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
you're purchase comes with a free frogurt...

yay!

...but the frogurt is cursed...

aww

...but the frogurt is covered with sprinkles!

yay!

...but the sprinkles are also cursed...

aww...

dammit...
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...The toppings contain potassium benzoate."

"...That's bad."

"can I go now?"

15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Somehow that whole bottled water industry doesn't seem so much of a problem now.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not so fast, when do the local politicos start screaming about bottled water "profiteering" and "gouging"?
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
So when are the guys in black leather and mohawk hairdos, driving weird cars and brandishing bizarre weapons taking over Toledo?
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Right after the good guys run out of ammo.

15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Until the scares about unregulated bottled water come to the surface again...
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
But if one brand is reported bad, one can just switch to another. Unlike the tap water that you can't change to a competitor or other source.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
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