400,000 in Toledo, Ohio, water scare await test results

By By Susanna Capelouto and Mark Morgenstein, CNN
3 August 2014

(CNN) — As residents of Toledo, Ohio, waited for word on when their water will be safe to drink, Mayor D. Michael Collins said Sunday morning that tests of the water supply were going to take longer than expected. He said results would likely be available Sunday afternoon but would not provide a specific timeline.

As many as 400,000 people were told not to consume, cook with or even boil the tap water, after a toxin called microcystin was found in the water supply late Friday. Collins told reporters the advisories will remain in effect until at least Sunday evening.

He said test results so far are "trending in a very positive direction." The tests are being done by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Toledo’s drinking water comes from Lake Erie, where a harmful algae bloom that causes microcystin has been growing, according to a city spokeswoman.

Several locations around the city have been designated as distribution centers for potable water, where members of the Ohio National Guard, fire officials and other first responders are giving out safe water.

About 350 Ohio National Guardsmen have been activated by the governor, according to a U.S. Defense Department official, adding that they have set up three Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit sites at two high schools and a police facility. The guardsmen have also delivered ready-to-eat meals, the official said.

Lining up for water

On Sunday, at least one Toledo restaurant was open, despite the water issues.

The Claddagh Irish Pub brought in about 400 gallons of water from Michigan, according to Janeil Mesteller, the area director for Northwest Ohio Claddagh Irish Pubs.

According to Mesteller, the 400 gallons are for cleaning and the pub now has cases of bottled water also.

The pub will do whatever it takes to stay open and serve customers, she said. They’re using disposable plastic plates and are "feeding anyone who wants to be fed," Mesteller said.

Saturday morning, a line formed outside Walt Churchill’s Market & Pharmacy in Perrysburg, Ohio, before the business even opened.

Toledo-area residents, desperate for clean water, bought all the bottled water inside, market co-owner Bob Carpenter said.

Then, hearing that a water tank truck full of about 8,000 gallons had set up outside the store, more people descended on the oasis with empty jugs they could fill for $1 a gallon.

About two-thirds of the Toledo area population is affected by the water warning. Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued a state of emergency for Fulton, Lucas and Wood counties. The potential contamination also affects four municipalities in Michigan, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported.

There are no reports of anyone getting sick from the water, officials said.

Harmful algal blooms

When certain conditions are present, such as high nutrient or light levels, algae can reproduce rapidly, forming a dense population known as a "bloom," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Testing is crucial because NOAA says it can’t determine just from images whether blooms are toxic.

Ingestion of the toxin can affect the liver and cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and even acute liver failure, according to NOAA.But the Ohio state emergency management agency said it is safe for adults to shower and for everyone to wash their hands.

CNN’s David Shortell, Ryan Sloane, Barbara Starr, Marisa Marcellino, Donovan Long and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.