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Seriously, Don't Drink That! Algae Ruins Water For Ohio Residents

Aug 02, 2014 11:42 PM EDT

Thousands-upon-thousands of people have been left without water in the city of Toledo, Ohio after local officials discovered an extremely high amount of algae-born toxins in local supplies. The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department warns that citizens should not even drink treated or boiled water, as it will not eliminate the toxins.

Department health officials released an updated warning early Tuesday morning that explained how reports are already coming in that residents are becoming ill after drinking water associated with a harmful algae bloom (HAB).

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins advised against residents from even cooking with the water, adding on his Twitter Tuesday morning that the "city strongly recommends all restaurants and food facilities temporarily suspend operations due to water advisory"

This all occurred after routine water testing at Toledo's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant showed an excess for microcystin well-beyond harmless levels. This plant produces drinking water for nearly 500,00 people in the greater Toledo area, according to the Associated Press (AP).

So what caused all this? Microcystin is a cyanotoxin that is released by blue-green algae booms and can cause abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness or dizziness.

This toxin only reaches harmful concentration when algea blooms grow past controllable levels in local waters, a consequence of a long winter and rainy spring, which sets up ideal conditions for the spread of algae by summer.

"Excessive runoff is feeding an explosion of toxic algae that is choking our waters, closing our beaches, and posing a threat to people, pets, and wildlife. This is a national problem that demands a national solution," Andy Buchsbaum, the regional executive director of the NWF's Great Lakes Regional Center, said in a 2013 report issued by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

What's worse, these toxins can increase in concentration if exposed to elevated temperatures, ruling-out the boiling of local water supplies.

So what can Toledo residents do? Not much besides stock up on bottle waters. Help is on the way though. Soon after the official warning was released, Ohio Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency in Toledo area counties so that the National Guard and the Department of Transportation could launch emergency water deliveries to the affected regions.

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