Three years after the Toledo Water Crisis: Are we doing enough to protect Lake Erie communities?

By Nick Mandros

What would you do if you woke up to news that you couldn’t drink or bathe in your water? How would this affect your daily routine? Cooking, taking medicine, bathing, doing laundry, even making your morning cup of joe would all become difficult, if not impossible tasks.

For my fellow Toledoans and I, these questions aren’t theoretical.

The Toledo Water Crisis was a tragedy with real consequences for my community. The weekend without water left a permanent mark in the minds of Toledoans, and many people I know continue to drink bottled water.

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It’s easy to understand why this fear persists. Without warning, my friends and neighbors and I woke up one morning to news that we couldn’t drink or bathe in the water in our homes. Our communities had to come together quickly and with no notice to ensure our children and elderly were informed and taken care of.

Volunteers went door-to-door to make sure people understood the seriousness of the advisory and were aware of the dire health consequences of continuing to drink the water. I’ve heard stories of horrified volunteers being greeted at the door by an elderly woman, happily sipping her morning coffee, unaware that boiling her water would only make the toxins even more concentrated.

Others were left wondering how to get water, since all of the stores in Toledo and surrounding areas quickly sold out of bottled water, and a lengthy commute was simply not possible for those relying on public transportation.

Those with means, like my family, made it through the water crisis relatively unscathed. Others, especially those on a tight budget, worried about having to choose between water and other essentials like food and gas.

Although a lot has changed in the three years since nearly half-a-million people in Toledo went three days without safe water, much has remained the same. The prediction for this year’s harmful algal bloom isn’t looking good. Small business owners and community members shouldn’t have to hold our breath each summer, wondering whether we’ll all have to once again scramble to find safe water for our families.

The truth is, we know what causes toxic algae, and there are practical steps we can take to put an end to it. Industrial-scale agricultural pollution is the leading source of algae-causing phosphorous pollution, and not enough is being done to address it at the source.

Ohio has committed to reducing our state’s phosphorous pollution by 40% by 2025. Initial plans for how we’ll get there rely on the same old voluntary practices for industrial farms that have kept us running in place for years now.

If we want to truly address toxic algae, and do the right thing for communities like Toledo, Ohio lawmakers must put standards in place to stem the flow of agricultural pollution into our streams and rivers.

Sign the petition if you agree! Tell Governor Kasich to get tough on toxic algae. Let’s not wait until another Ohio city loses its drinking water before we get serious.

 

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 3:30pm