Legislators Seek Law on Algal Toxins in Drinking Water

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News, Water Contamination
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Tory Gabriel, Ohio Sea Grant fisheries outreach coordinator, holds a water sample containing microcystis, the type of blue-green algae that can produce a toxin, taken in August near Rattlesnake Island in Lake Erie.
(Photo credit: File photo )

Article courtesy of Kristina Smith | September 19, 2014 | Coshocton Tribune | Shared as educational material

Two state representatives want the state to set standards for acceptable and dangerous levels of toxin from algae in Ohio drinking water.

There are no state or federal regulations for how much toxin, which can cause liver problems and gastrointestinal illness, drinking water may contain.

State Reps. Mike Sheehy, D-Oregon, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson, on Friday introduced legislation that would set the levels and require the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to develop procedures for testing the toxin.

The legislation also would require water plants to test for the toxin and notify their local health department if the toxin, called microcystin, reached a certain level.

The bill comes after toxins from harmful algae on Lake Erie contaminated Toledo’s drinking water in early August. The city notified its more than 400,000 customers in Ohio and Michigan not to drink the water.

Without regulations, water plants rely on the World Health Organization’s guideline that there be no more than 1 part per billion of the toxin. During Toledo’s water crisis, its water contained 5 parts per billion.

Three federal lawmakers also are pushing for similar federal regulations. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced a bill last week that would push federal officials to develop a standard for a safe level of microcystin in drinking water.

Harmful algal blooms were a problem on Lake Erie in the 1960s and ’70s and re-emerged as an issue in 2002. Phosphorous from farm runoff and sewer plants feeds the algae, which has started in Lake Erie’s Western Basin in recent.

The blue-green algae, which is really a bacteria, can produce the toxin as it dies. In western Ohio, Grand Lake St. Marys has dealt for years with harmful algae and advisories warning the public to stay out of the water.

Toxins from algae are found in bodies of water across the U.S. and the world.

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