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9 years after the Toledo water crisis, calls for change persist

Lake Erie was covered in thick algae bloom during the water crisis in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Residents had to avoid using their own tap for days.

TOLEDO, Ohio — It has been nine years since the Toledo water crisis, when Lake Erie was covered in thick algae bloom that saw many northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan residents forced to avoid drinking or using their own tap water for days.

Lake Erie waterkeeper Sandy Bihn, an Oregon resident who advocates for environmentalism on the waters, said the algal bloom continues to be a cause for concern.

“The fact is the science shows that it’s not improving,” Bihn said. “It’s been coming and going this year. Sometimes it’s pretty green, today it’s moderate, not too bad, it will cook. It will get worse this season.”

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science provides data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing bloom positioning and severity.

Bihn said agricultural and waste runoff from farms in the region contribute to the toxic algal blooms. She said discharge from agricultural runoff from the Maumee River is specifically a big problem.

“It’s a major source for the algae and the state of Ohio refuses to factor it in and reduce,” Bihn said. 
In fact, they keep adding and compounding the problem instead of taking away.”

Toledo’s Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz agreed.

In a statement reflecting on the nine years since the Toledo water crisis,  Kapzsukiewicz said “the state of Ohio has still refused to take the common sense steps necessary to protect Lake Erie from the agricultural runoff that causes harmful algal blooms. That’s why we still have a *lake* water problem.”

Kapszukiewicz goes on to say the drinking water in the city is no longer an issue, and that fixing the issue as a whole has been shouldered by the people it most severely impacts.

“But it’s important to emphasize that we no longer have a *drinking* water problem In fact, after making roughly $500 million in upgrades to our water treatment plant, our drinking water in Toledo is among the best in the entire country. That’s why, personally, I never buy bottled water and instead always drink from the tap.

The quality of our lake water is still poor, but the quality of our drinking water is excellent. Both can be true, and it is a shame that the ratepayers of Toledo have been forced to solve this problem largely by themselves. But the problem has been solved. Our drinking water is excellent.

So while Toledoans should be upset that the state of Ohio continues to allow agricultural runoff to pollute our lake, they should rest assured that the water coming out of the tap is now of the highest quality in America.”

Bihn continues her advocacy for the state to intervene on the harmful algal blooms.

“Denying a problem is here doesn’t solve it,” she said. “And the fact that the statistics show that there’s not been improvement and it’s not getting better is extremely frustrating.”

https://www.wtol.com/article/news/local/toledo-water-crisis-9-years-later-lake-erie-algal-bloom/512-3acb4d17-b6b3-425c-90be-b0d661b16999 9 years after the Toledo water crisis, calls for change persist

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