Saturday was the start of a state of emergency that ended just minutes ago officially in Toledo, Ohio, when residents were told not to drink the water, which is polluted with toxins from algae growing in Lake Erie.
Boiling the water wouldn’t even work, since that only concentrates the toxins.
Toledo draws its water from Lake Erie, and, as the AP reports:
Algae blooms during the summer have become more frequent and troublesome around the western end of Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.
The algae growth is fed by phosphorous mainly from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants, leaving behind toxins that have contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can’t survive. The toxins can kill animals and sicken humans.
in The Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg made the environmental links behind the crisis:
The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.
Heavy rains in spring and early summer – a critical time for algal bloom formation – cause more phosphorus to enter the lake through agricultural runoff. Hotter temperatures then cause the blooms to spread.
Climate Progress also posted a great article: 7 Things You Need to Know about the Toxin that Poisoned Ohio’s Drinking Water.
While this specific acute crisis might have ended, the problems behind it are still at work, polluting the water to greater and less extents.