Tag Archives: cyanobacteria

Toxins found in the Water of Ohio and Michigan

ap5Water is the source of life. We use it to clean, drink, cook, and more. Imagine having no safe water to clean or drink. Residents of Monroe County and Toledo, Ohio were recommended to stock up on bottled water this weekend due to the toxin, microcystin. Microcystin is a toxin created by the blooms of cyanobacteria, large amounts of harmful algae blooms. Symptoms of drinking the contaminated water with microcystin are nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. If it comes into contact with your skin, it can cause skin irritation or liver and kidney damages. This toxin left 400,000 people in Ohio and Michigan without water to drink, bath, or use at all for almost three days.  

During that period of no safe water, thousands of residents had to go out and buy bottled water that suddenly was cost inflated by the demand. After all, Microcystin cannot be removed by boiling water but the use of powered activated carbon (PAC), iron oxide nanoparticles, and ultrafiltation (UF) membranes. However, this was not the first time residents of Toledo had faced microcystin in their water. The World Health Organization has recently set a new provisional guideline value for microcystin- LR of 1.0 microg/L drinking water.  

Remember: the first thing unavailable in most emergencies is potable drinking water. Check out our website for our Filtercon Emergency Filtration Systems http://www.filtercon.com/specials

References:

1.http://www2.epa.gov/nutrient-policy-data/cyanobacteriacyanotoxins

2. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/08/04/337729232/despite-tests-showing-toxins-at-safe-level-toledo-mayor-keeps-water-ban

3.http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/criteria/nutrients/upload/cyanobacteria_factsheet.pdf

Image Credit to Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

Toledo’s Contaminated Water: Here’s What Went Wrong

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The contamination came from algae toxins—and it’s not likely to be an isolated incident

On Monday, the Toledo, Ohio, Mayor D. Michael Collins lifted the municipal ban on drinking water.The ban had left thousands of Toledo and Michigan residents without drinking water, which was contaminated by a toxin produced by an algae bloom in Lake Erie. If consumed, the toxin could cause symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. Residents were told not to drink the water, use it to brush their teeth, or—most confounding of all—boil it.

We talked to two experts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as Craig Cox, the senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to explain everything you should know about the contamination.

What is an algae bloom, and why is it toxic?

An algae bloom is a heavy concentration of cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae. It looks like a huge mat, turns the bay around Toledo bright green, and produces a neurotoxin called microcystin, which makes people sick.

How does an algae bloom form?

There are a few reasons algae blooms form, but it’s primarily caused by runoff from farm fertilizers. In Toledo’s case, the phosphorus and nitrogen from these fertilizers runs into the Maumee River, which drains right into the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie, where Toledo is located. This spurs the growth of the blooms. The summer heat has likely also played a role in this particular algae bloom’s growth.

Is this a growing problem in water?

Yes. The EPA says there is not a federal standard for blue-green algae in water, but experts say it is in the process of considering one. Farm runoff is not very regulated, so the expectation, according to Cox, is that this kind of water contamination could happen again and again. About 2o or so years ago the U.S. took action to prevent the amount of runoff draining into the lake, and things were looking up. But now, environmentalists are worried we’ve backtracked.

How did the algae get into the drinking water?

The water intake for Toledo’s water supply is located right in the middle of the Maumee Bay where the algae bloom moved to. The water intake brought in both the blue-green algae and the toxins it produces.

Aren’t there purification systems that prevent that?

Yes, but they don’t necessarily address the blue-green algae toxins. The algae bloom moved very close to the water intake system, and the water treatment system experienced much higher levels than they had previously. It put a lot of pressure on the system. The conventional treatment plan the city of Toledo has is a multi-step procedure that removes dangerous pathogens and decontaminates the water in a variety of ways. To directly address the blue-algae toxins, it is using activated carbon to absorb and remove the toxins.

How did the contamination go away in just a couple days?

The EPA worked with Toledo over the weekend to sample the water at both the supply system and the drinking water system, and a couple of things happened. First, the algae bloom moved away from the water intake system, which could have been due to the wind. The second is that Toledo enhanced its treatment system with the aforementioned carbon to specifically address the blue-algae and its toxins.

I thought boiling water decontaminates it. Why couldn’t the residents boil their water?

Boiling water kills things like bacterial organisms, but it does not get rid of blue-algae toxins. Instead, boiling water decreases the volume of the water, and therefore increases the concentration of the toxins, making it worse.

What can be done?

Creating buffers, like plants and trees that stand between farms and the water, may help catch fertilizer chemicals before they get into water ways, spurring algae growth. Farmers could also, theoretically, use less fertilizer, though there are no regulations in place as of now.

Written By Alexandra Sifferlin

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Image Credit to Joshua Lott for The New York Times

The Toledo Post- Water Ban Instructions for Residents

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The Toledo Lucas County Health Department provides the following instructions for residents about water usage post- water ban. Please Read.

Toledo city government officials say some residents will need to flush their pipes by running water for 15 minutes. This is only necessary if residents shut off their water on Friday and have not used it since.

How to flush your plumbing system

Please complete these steps in the order set out below. Finish each step completely before moving on to the next step.

 

  1. Flush ALL hot water taps for 15 minutes

Begin the flushing procedure by opening the hot water taps in your            bathroom(s). Open ALL hot water lavatory (sink) fixtures, hot water bath fixtures, and any     other hot water fixtures, such as kitchens, wet bars, etc. Run these hot water      fixtures for at least 15 minutes. Shut water off after 15 minutes. After you   have   flushed each hot water faucet for 15 minutes, your hot water heater will be safe    for use.

  1. Flush ALL cold water taps for five minutes

Once the hot water tank and hot water piping have been flushed, open ALL of the cold water fixtures, flush each toilet at least one time. Run these cold water fixtures for at least five minutes. Shut water off after five minutes. This does include the water in your refrigerator water dispenser.

  1. Flush ALL remaining faucets and appliances

Open any remaining fixtures such as hose bibs, external faucets or fixtures not used for drinking for at least five minutes to finish the plumbing system flushing. Take additional steps to remove water from other appliances. See How to Flush Plumbing Appliances and Faucets for more information. This includes:

Ice makers

Dishwashers

Humidifiers

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Oral, medical or health care devices

Baby formula, food and drinks made with water during DO NOT USE

Water filters

Water Softeners

Reverse osmosis units

Clean Your Ice Makers and Refrigerators

If you have an ice make in your refrigerator, make sure to throw away all the ice.

If you have a filter on your ice maker, make sure to first flush out your refrigerator’s ice maker and then replace the ice maker filter. Check to make sure that you have replaced any filter after flushing cold water supply.  Then flush the cold-water dispenser for five minutes. After flushing these lines, let the ice maker container fill up completely and discard the ice and clean the container before replacing. If you have more than one refrigerator, make sure to repeat the same process.

Water Filters

Clean or change your water filters. If you are unsure of how to change your water filter, call the filter manufacturer for more details.
Pools

If you have added water to your pool after 8/1/2014, make sure to superchlorinate and change the filters.

 

Remember: the first thing unavailable in most emergencies is potable drinking water.

Check out our website for our Filtercon Emergency Filtration Systems

http://www.filtercon.com/specials

References:

  1. http://storage.cloversites.com/toledolucascountyhealthdepartment/documents/FlushingGuidance.pdf
  2. http://www.wxyz.com/news/drinking-bathing-water-ban-lifted-in-toledo-southeast-michigan

Image Credit to Paul Sancya/Associated Press