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Algae along Lake Erie is threat to drinking water

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Associated Press


Some water-treatment plant operators along western Lake Erie where harmful algae blooms are a threat to the drinking water think there should be state or federal guidelines for detecting the algae inside their plants.

Ottawa County Sanitary Engineer Kelly Frey calls it unbelievable that there aren’t any standards.

“It’s just so unusual for us to have to make judgment calls on something that is unregulated,” Frey said Thursday at a forum on the issue.

Some cities that draw their drinking water from the lake have been forced to spend more money lately to test and treat the water. The city of Toledo estimated it spent an extra $1 million last year to combat the toxins.

One township told its 2,000 residents in early September not to drink or use the water coming from their taps for two days until they could hook up to another water supply.

It was believed to be the first time a city has banned residents from using the water because of toxins from algae in the lake.

The algae growth is fed by phosphorous from farm fertilizer runoff and other sources, leaving behind toxins that can kill animals and sicken humans.

Without any guidelines on how to remove the toxins, plant operators have come up with own strategies.

“There is no set way to remove this. We’re all experimenting with the processes we have,” Frey told The Blade in Toledo. “We’re all fearful of the threat this has if it gets through and into our public water supply.”

They’ve found that the best option, powdered activated carbon, is also expensive, said, Andy McClure, administrator of Toledo’s treatment plant.

Toledo officials anticipated spending $3 million last year to treat its water, but the cost increased to $4 million because it needed more chemicals to treat the toxins. That was about double what the city spent just a few years ago.

Barry LaRoy, the water director in Monroe, Mich., said facilities are doing the best they can without official guidance.