October 21, 2014

Medina
Showers
46°F

Local water still safe despite unsafe supplies in Toledo

Jon Wysochanski and David Knox

The algae toxin that contaminated the drinking water supply of 400,000 people in the Toledo area is at safe levels at the Lake Erie pumping station, which supplies drinking water to most Medina County residents.

Steve Heimlich, Avon Lake Regional Water plant filtration manager, who formerly worked for Ottawa County Regional Water in Port Clinton, said the algae problem affecting Toledo is limited — at least for now — to the Maumee River watershed, which feeds Lake Erie in the Toledo area.

Toledo residents were warned not to use city water early Saturday after tests at one treatment plant showed unsafe readings for microcystin, a toxin that can cause liver and kidney damage.

The microcystin toxin is a product of cyanobacteria, a form of blue-green algae that has become a growing problem in Lake Erie.

Heimlich said Avon Lake Regional Water took precautions when Toledo issued their warning, taking extra samples Saturday morning to test for microcystin levels.

“We’re below the limit,” Heimlich said. “World Health Organization levels for microcystin say it should be below 1.0 parts per billion. The levels being reported in Toledo tap water is 2.1.”

Heimlich said Avon Lake Regional Water had its chief chemist come in on Saturday just to make sure that algae has not affected water quality in Lorain County.

“In 2011 we had algae that came across the whole lake and stretched into Cleveland, but it wasn’t the type of algae that Toledo is seeing now,” Heimlich said. “We’re going to continually monitor the situation.”

The Avon plant processes about 21 million gallons daily and serves 80,000 households. In addition to communities in Medina County, the plant supplies communities in Lorain, Cuyahoga, Wayne, Ashland, Erie and Huron counties.

About two-third of Medina County gets its drinking water from Lake Erie, including all of the northern townships, in addition to the cities of Medina and Brunswick, said Jeff Van Loon, director of the Medina County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Areas in the county served by well water include the southern portions of Montville, Lafayette, Harrisville and Sharon townships, some of Homer Township, most of Westfield Township and all of Guilford and Wadsworth townships and the city of Wadsworth.

Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.