Published: Saturday, 8/2/2014 – Updated: 14 minutes ago

State of emergency declared in Lucas County after toxins found in Toledo water

Microcystin found in samples; boiling not recommended


A state of emergency was declared today in Lucas County and the greater Toledo area after tests at the Collins Park water-treatment plant in East Toledo produced two toxin sample readings.

Chemists testing water at Collins Park plant found two sample readings for microcystin that exceeded the recommended "do not drink" standard of one microgram per liter standard.

Map of areas affected by the advisory.

Map of areas affected by the advisory.


Within hours after the warning was issued, Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency for Toledo and the surrounding areas affected.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and health leaders asked residents to remain calm and said they may have answers later today on when Toledo-area water supply will be safe to drink again.

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At a news conference at the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, leaders said they would try to bring in supplies of water and have asked for water from other areas to be diverted to the Toledo area. Dr. David Grossman, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, said a sample of water would be flown via a state helicopter to the Environmental Protection Agency in Cincinnati for further testing.

Results could be returned yet today.

Sen. Portman en route to Toledo

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said he's already reached out to Mayor Collins and said he would come to Toledo later today to help address the situation.

"The immediate issue is to ensure residents in the Toledo area have access to drinking water that is clean and safe. I have asked NOAA and the U.S. EPA to work closely with state and local officials on this current situation and to provide any assistance that may be requested," he said in a statement.

Last summer, the city of Toledo spent an additional $3 million on chemicals to help protect the city's water supply from Lake Erie's algae.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department is strongly recommending that restaurants and food facilities temporarily suspend their operations. The only exception is facilities that can guarantee no consumption of tap water.

Dr. Grossman said a safe level of microcystin is 0, but an allowable level is below 1. At the Collins Park plant, water was testing as high as 2.5 parts-per-million, Dr. Grossman said. As long as the level remains below 20 parts-per-million, it is safe to shower and bathe, Dr. Grossman said. 

Dr. Grossman also said well water is OK to drink.

Impact on Toledo police and fire services

Toledo police are recalling officers today, asking some to stay as late as 7:30 p.m., to help maintain order when water tankers arrive, said Deputy Chief George Kral. Officers will be escorting the tankers and on hand while water is given out, the chief said.

Chief Kral said calls for service today "are not any higher than normal" and there is not any wide-spread problem as far as response to criminal complains is concerned. Earlier today officers were called to disturbances at various stores to help with crowd control and for various "disturbances" over bottled water.

Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld said fire services are not impacted.

At Toledo Correctional Institute, inmates were given bottled water today, said Nicole Walters, the warden's assistant.  The prison has gone out to purchase water and also has a prison in southern Ohio bagging water which is on its way to the North Toledo prison.‍

"Essentially we're doing the same as the rest of the community," Ms. Walters said. "We're looking for alternative sources for water and controlling what we're using water for internally."

There have been no security issues, Ms. Walters said.

Inmates were served milk today for breakfast and lunch and meals that do not require water are being prepared and served.

Most area businesses are already without water to sell after the City of Toledo announced a water alert shortly before 2 a.m. today. It is also safe to brush your teeth without consuming the water, they said. But it is not safe to be supplied to pets. The water remains unsafe to drink or boil.

Mr. Collins asked that all businesses remain closed during the water crisis.

"This is very critical for us as residents of this community and region," Mr. Collins said.

What is a microcystin?

Algal blooms, often caused by the addition of nutrients to a water body, are made up of cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae. Some cyanobacteria can produce toxins, called cyanotoxins. Although many blooms contain non-toxic species of cyanobacteria, lab tests are needed to determine whether a bloom is toxic or nontoxic. Some cyanotoxins can be toxic for humans, animals and plants. The health effects include nausea, vomiting, fever, rashes, and eye and ear irritation.

The city'‍s plant provides treatment services to an area of approximately 400,000 people across 100 square miles. Other areas serviced include Perrysburg, Rossford, the villages of Walbridge and Ottawa Hills, and portions of Wood County, Lucas County and the Village of Northwood. Oregon, which does not use the city'‍s water supply, is not affected by this advisory.

Affected communities include:
Troy Township
Lake Township
Perrysburg Township
Ottawa Hills
Erie Township
Village of Metamora
Eastern Swan Creek Township
Village of Whitehouse
Luna Pier

The notice — posted on the city's Facebook page — applies to all city of Toledo water customers throughout Lucas County, Perrysburg and all communities who receive water from the Toledo. 

Areas affected

Residents in Oregon, Monroe, Swanton, and Bowling Green were not affected because they get water from other systems. Oregon officials issued a release saying the water in the city was safe to consume and "is being monitored." 

Oregon police Chief Michael Navarre said the City of Oregon, where the water plant is not affected, would make water available this morning to those who come supplied with their own containers.

The University of Toledo is closed today because of the water advisory but UTMC remains open.

At the University of Toledo Medical Center, a truck has brought in 1,000 gallons of water. More bottled water is en route, according to an email sent out this morning by Interim President Nagi Naganathan. Dialysis patients have been moved from the region and the hospital is seeking help from elsewhere to sterilize its instruments.

Toledo Public Schools today canceled all practices and school-related activities because of the water advisory. The Toledo Zoo and all branches of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library System are closed today, too. The library'‍s Rooftop Bash has been rescheduled for Aug. 9.

Retailers swamped

Before 8 a.m., grocery and convenience stores across the area were out of water. Some residents were driving deep into Michigan in search of bottled water.

About 30 people waited outside Walt Churchill's market in Perrysburg a half hour before the store opened at 7 a.m. to buy bottled water.

Cathrine Sancrant, an employee at Kroger at 4533 Monroe St. in West Toledo, said that store had run out of bottled water by 3:30 a.m.

"It got really busy about a half-hour after the city put out the notice," she said. "Ever since then, it's been nonstop at all six self-checkout stations we have going."

Toledoans and others from the surrounding communities were at Monroe County's Frenchtown Township Kroger, on South Dixie Highway, just ‍minutes after the grocery store opened, filling shopping carts with bottles and gallon-jugs of water. A store employee expected they would run out before 8 a.m.

On social media, Northwest Ohio residents were sharing pictures of empty store aisles and tales of woe as they searched for drinking water.

Toledo police were also responding to "disorders over bottled water" and large crowds gathered outside stores.

Perrysburg officials have said residents should not use irrigation systems until notified otherwise.

The city recommends

● Do not drink the water. Alternative water should be used for drinking, making infant formula, making ice, brushing teeth and preparing food. Pets should not drink the water.

● Do not boil the water. Boiling the water will not destroy the toxins — it will increase the concentration of the toxins.

The city, according to the Facebook post, said Lake Erie might have have been impacted by a harmful algal bloom.

Consuming water containing algal toxins may result in abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness or dizziness. Seek medical attention if you feel you have been exposed to algal toxins and are having adverse health effects. Contact a veterinarian immediately if pets or livestock show signs of illness.