Adam Rissien, March 21, 2016
Ohioans are all too familiar with the bright green slime floating in our streams, lakes and public reservoirs. This blue-green algae produces toxins that threaten our drinking water. These toxins pose a serious danger to our health. The most dangerous, called microcystin, causes liver and kidney damage, with our young children and infants particularly at risk.
In 2015, Ohio experienced some of the largest toxic-algae blooms ever recorded. One stretched over 650 miles of the Ohio River, fouling shorelines touching on four states. Lake Erie had the most severe algae bloom this century, spreading over 300 square miles. The bloom’s severity was rated a 10.5…on a 1 -10 scale.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency keeps records of algae toxin levels in many of Ohio’s waters, which it posts on an interactive map. Last year, the agency recorded over 570 detections of microcystin above safe levels at public water supply intakes, which include drinking water plants as well as industrial facilities such as Campbell’s soup company.
Treatment plants work hard to make sure the water flowing to our taps is safe, but in 2015 there were four documented instances where this was not the case. The most severe was in the Cadiz Township just northwest of Wheeling. Tests showed microcystin levels were over 11 times higher than the safety threshold for infants and pre-school children.
Threats from toxic algae do not get the amount of attention they deserve until government officials tell you not to drink your tap water. By then, of course, it is too late to address the cause of the problem.
More needs to be done to prevent algae-causing pollution at its source rather than relying on treating the water after it becomes toxic. Please help us raise awareness about this critical issue on World Water Day. Spread the word by sharing this post with your friends!