Toledo Drinking Water Under Threat Of Toxic Algae In Lake Erie

Toxic algae blooms on western Lake Erie are being predicted by scientists this summer to be one of the most severe outbreaks yet. Last August the microcystin algal bloom disrupted the water supply for 400,000 people in Toledo and southeastern Michigan.

The major bloom prediction was spurred by heavy June rains that caused substantial nutrient runoff into the lake basin.

Health Commission Doctor David Grossman reiterated at a press conference Tuesday that the Toledo water is safe to drink.

  • If microcystin levels in the drinking water do reach 0.3 parts per billion, the city announced, a warning will be issued for children ages five and under, pregnant women, dialysis patients, and people with liver disease to NOT drink the water.
  • Furthermore, if the levels reach 0.6 parts per billion, there will be another warning issued for everyone to not drink the water.

The algae, which produces a toxin called microcystin, feeds on nutrients flowing into Lake Erie. One major nutrient source is the Maumee River watershed, stretching through farm and industrial land from Indiana to Toledo.

The runoff from agriculture is a key source of phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients allowing the algae to thrive during times of warm temperatures and plentiful sunlight on the relatively shallow western portion of the Great Lake.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists earlier this month announced that simulations demonstrate this year could be one of the most severe for harmful algal blooms on western Lake Erie, the second-most serious after the record-breaking 2011 bloom.