5 min

Tt post jul 30 2015

#toledo #politics #moronism #media #lakeerie #water

I have not studied every single local media story about drinking water, therefore maybe someone else can fill in the gaps.

The terms "microcystin" and "part per billion" get thrown around without context.

On Mon, Jul 27, Toledo detected a microcystin level of 0.5 ppb in raw Lake Erie water, which triggered a press conference by the mayor, which triggered an embarrassing late-night rush for bottled water by the citizenry.

0.5 ppb came with no context.

Bowling Green gets its drinking water from the Maumee River. In 2014, Bowling Green experienced no water crisis. Obviously, this is somewhat unrelated info, since BG's water source is different.

But I'm looking for some context.

Jul 28, 2015 WTOL story

As of Tuesday [July 28], the microcystin level in Bowling Green's raw water supply was reported as three times that of the Toledo water intake. That is 0.4 parts per billion for Toledo and 1.3 parts per billion for BG.

Last year Bowling Green was not part of the crisis, as they get their water from an intake in the Maumee River. They also have a different water treatment process than Toledo.

"Regardless of what level the algae has been detected at, we've always had a "non-detect" for the microcystin toxin in our finished water that goes to the customers," said O'Connell.

In my opinion, we should see the data for microcystin levels from past summers for Lake Erie. Where's the data for 2011? Has this data been published for comparison to now?

Here are a couple examples of the local media providing some context. Finally.

Jul 29, 2015 13abc story about Port Clinton, which also gets its drinking water from Lake Erie. Its intake crib is only 1800 feet from shore. In 2014, PC had no water crisis issues.

This week, PC detected a microcystin level of 1.7 ppb in raw Lake Erie water.

So this week's peak microcystin levels:

  1. Port Clinton = 1.7 ppb
  2. Bowling Green = 1.3 ppb
  3. Toledo = 1.0 ppb
  4. Oregon = 0.31 ppb

But how do those numbers compare to previous years?

More from the Jul 29 13abc story about Port Clinton:

James Frey, the county's sanitary engineer says, "In the water, last year, we've had over 50 parts per billion."

But yet, Ottawa County has been able to keep tap water clean. Frey says, "We never had detection in our drinking water at all."

Communities along Lake Erie have been testing for microcystin since only for the last five years. But there are 100 different types of microcystin.

Toledo's neighbor, Oregon, Ohio, gets its drinking water from Lake Erie, and in 2014, Oregon had no water crisis issues.

Jul 30, 2015 Toledo Blade story

To put the situation into better context, consider this:

Oregon produced safe tap water one day in 2013, when the raw lake water near its intake hit 100 ppb.

“We’ve regularly done over 50 ppb,” Mr. Wagner said, adding he “doesn’t start to get nervous” until the raw lake concentration is 10 to 15 ppb.

Doug Wagner is superintendent of the city of Oregon’s water-treatment plant.

Here's a little info from that Blade story about microcystin testing, and why Toledo has gone back to testing once a week.

The Ohio EPA said it expects tests to be done at least once a week when the concentration in the raw water is 5.0 ppb or less. Above 5.0 ppb, the tests need to be done at least three times a week.

The tests cost hundreds of dollars. Just as importantly, they’re labor-intensive and take about five hours — distracting some chemists from day-to-day plant operations, Mr. Wagner said.

He said municipalities are “just throwing money out the window” when they test raw lake water that is 5.0 ppb or less, because that concentration can be easily managed by water treatment.

Well, easily managed by BG, PC, and Oregon.


Ms. Weber said the tests cost [Toledo] $500 each.

Toledo Councilman Lindsay Webb, who is the chairman of the council’s public utilities committee, said it was “terrible” that the city would cease daily testing.

Is Webb concerned because she feels Toledo is not as qualified to do the job as PC, BG, and Oregon?

Personally, I don't think Webb knows what she is talking about, and she's on some kind of public utilities committee.

“We have seen a spike,” [Webb] said. “Is that a trend or an anomaly? We won’t know the answer to that unless we are testing on a daily basis.”

Trend or anomaly? Good grief. If Webb wants to be useful, she should retrieve microcystin test results from past years for Toledo and the other communities for comparison today.

And maybe this is why she is concerned (mentioned earlier):

[Toledo] remained in regulatory violation by having failed to correct problems with the plant’s sedimentation vent and alum system, which were cited for “significant deficiencies” in a Feb. 6 [2014 EPA] notice.

There were other EPA letters sent to the city, dating back to January 2013, that discussed deficiencies and potential failures in Toledo’s water system.

In the opening paragraph of the June 9 [2014] letter to Collins, the EPA chief said he was concerned about the lack of progress being made to improve the city's public water system, in particular the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.

[The EPA] said the plant “is vulnerable to potential failures that could impact the city’s ability to provide adequate quantities of safe water to citizens.”

Yet in August 2014, Ed Moore, Toledo's public utilities director said

“The algal bloom caused the issue. The plant did not cause the issue.”

No issues in BG, PC, and Oregon last year. Human incompetence at Toledo's plant caused the issue. And maybe that's why Webb is concerned. That's understandable.

Regarding the current algal bloom on Lake Erie, nothing to see here, at the moment.

If Toledo has resolved all the EPA concerns, then we should be fine, just like in the years prior to 2014. And last year's so-called issue may have been an overreaction by Toledo.

The local media will be disappointed at this boring news, but I appreciate the media for providing some context this week. A lot more is needed. And maybe share the info with Toledo city council.

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