Don’t Drink the Water!

by

The  aquapocalypse in Toledo, Ohio is now entering its third day after citizens in the greater Toledo area woke up to a stark reality on Saturday morning when city officials had issued an unprecedented, region wide water advisory warning people not to drink or boil local tap water due to toxic contamination. It is further recommended that young children and the elderly not bathe in the water.  Samples at the Collins Park treatment plant, that services nearly 500,000 residents in NW Ohio and SE Michigan, have tested above safe drinking standards for microcystin and test results continue to show dangerous levels.  A state of emergency has been declared by the state of Ohio. A giant Toxic Algae bloom, of the type that has been plaguing Lake Erie for a decade, has for the first time overwhelmed the local water treatment plant at Collins Park and forced city officials to take this step to protect the health and safety of citizens.   Years of hand wringing, millions of dollars in research grants, and lip service by the inept political caste on the causes and intensification of the blooms has done nothing to improve the situation. The massive and recurring Toxic Algae Blooms on Lake Erie are a man made disaster. A combination of factory/industrial farming, sewage, storm water runoff and industrial pollution are to blame.  The massive coal burners, nuke plants and tar sands refineries along the lake use millions of gallons of lake water and create large heat zones from thermal pollution where water temperatures are much warmer.  The heat zone created by the thermal pollution along the lake, which includes the Monroe Power plant, the second largest coal burner in North America, was pinpointed in satellite imagery taken in 2011 as the spawning zone of that years algae bloom. Microcystin is created by what are now called Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs.  They are caused by the addition of nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen to a water body and are made up of cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae. Some cyanobacteria can produce toxins, called cyanotoxins.  Some cyanotoxins can be toxic for humans, animals and plants and microsystin is one of these toxic cyanotoxins that is has been plaguing Lake Erie for years.  Fertilizer from factory farm runoff is the number one contributor. Acccording to the World Health Organization, when levels of microcystin reach over 1 parts per billion water should not be used for drinking or food preparation. The samples taken showed levels of 2.5 parts per billion, according to City Water department officials.  Tensions are now surfacing between elected officials and the EPA. Local congresswoman Marcy Kaptur infuriatedly demanded transparency from the intransigent Environmental Protection Agency that has not made any of their test results available to her or the public up until this time.  An EPA official told her in passing that there had been one spike of 3 parts per billion or three times safe drinking water standards. There is also growing frustration with the Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to create standard protocols on what is considered a safe level of the toxic Microcystin or standard sampling procedures. Ineptitude reigns supreme in the face of disaster.  Just one week before the current water ban, the EPA claimed that the water was safe and there was no risk of such an emergency occurring. lakeerieatoxiclagae Toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie, 2011. Many have seen this reality coming for sometime.  Anna Michalak, lead researcher on a National Science Foundation study project studying water quality and sustainability on the Great Lakes, describes the factors that have lead to this emergency, “It is a combination of agricultural practices, meteorological conditions and also slowly changing climate conditions that are coming together to make these blooms more and more likely as we look into the future.”   Climate change and global warming are definitely contributing factors as water temperatures in the shallowest of the Great Lakes increase. Richard Stumpf, along with other scientists wrote a paper that shows there are ways to predict the severity of the blooms based on the amount of runoff from farms each year. “We’re looking at making some upgrades in our modeling of the location of the bloom so that we might be able to help the water suppliers along the lake better know if there’s potential impact, so they can plan better.” Both Stumpf and Michalak agree that measures taken to reduce phosporous levels in the the lake improved condititions until the late 90s when blooms started increasing in intensity. Other sources of phosphorous and nitrates entering the Lake, including overburdened and antiquated sewage treatment plants are also to blame. According to Accuweather, Ohio state officials released the first beach advisory on July 23 after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a June 2014 report predicting a significant threat to Lake Erie due to harmful algal blooms (HAB). The blooms are a malignant type of cyanobacteria that crowd water areas, typically late in the summer to early fall for the Great Lakes region. Lake Erie endured an extreme bloom in 2011 that turned waters a putrid green and closed beaches due to health risks. Researchers have expected 2014 blooms to be milder, due to drier conditions, but winds seem to have pushed the Harmful Algal Blooms, HAB’s, into the coastline overhwelming the water intake ststem that is itself in need of an over 300 million dollar upgrade. Sandy Bihn, of the environmental organization Western Lake Erie Water Keeper and an expert on the issue of Toxic Algae on Lake Erie,  says that the four largest contributors to these dangerous blooms are Fertilizer, Waste Water, Manuer, and Storm Water run-off.   While much is being done to reduce the sources of these nutrients reaching Lake Erie, it is obviously not enough. “The most important thing that can be done to reduce this threat to our Lake and our water supply is to identify all the sources of nutrients and phosporous entering Lake Erie and figure out how to stop them, “ Bihn said. According to a report entitled HAB’s and drinking Water Concerns, from Timothy Murphy , comissioner of the Division of Environmental Services for the City of Toledo, The City of Toledo currently uses Potassium Permanganate, Powdered Activated Carbon, Aluminum Sulfate, and Chlorine to treat the local water supply for mitocystin and has had to increase the amount of these substances used in recent years to combat the Harmful Algae Blooms. The total cost of water treatment just for the HAB’s in 2013 was 4 million dollars with an increase of 1 million dollars authorized by City Council, the city of Toledo also adds flouride to the local water supply. Regradless of whether or not the city and the state EPA deem the Toledo water safe to drink, many of us choose to avoid drinking it as best we can.  The chemicals used to “purify” the water have their own health risks and side effects and past analyses of Toledo water by independent environmental groups showed a myriad of cancer causing substances, including harmful levels of benzene.  Toledo activist and former city councli member Mike Ferner tied this crisis into the cost of war, the cost of “deeming the water safe,” for the nearly 500,000 residents in the guise of the needed upgrades to the water treatment facility would be roughly one fifth the amount local taxpayers have spent to fund the foreign wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ferner said.  That additional 225 million dollars that our Senate approved in military aid for Israel’s massacre of Palestinians last week, on top of the over 3 billion a year already earmarked, could sure come in handy dealing with the rotting infrastructure in the rust belt, too. Unfortunately, this is a crisis from which we will not be able to buy our way out.  The continued use and abuse of our Great Lakes will only lead to more and more emergencies  like this one in the future.  This report from the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes makes some clear and direct recommendations on some initial steps that need to be taken, to improve the situation, and having the political and societal will to enact them would be a start.  The report does not go far enough, however, and I am curious to know if anyone actually thinks the oligarchy will do anything at all?

Michael Leonardi lives in Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at mikeleonardi@hotmail.com

Michael Leonardi lives in Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at mikeleonardi@hotmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism