[T]he 2015 western Lake Erie harmful algal bloom season will be among the most severe in recent years and could become the second most severe behind the record-setting 2011 bloom.
The effects of the cyanobacterial blooms include a higher cost for cities and local governments to treat their drinking water, as well as risk to swimmers in high concentration areas, and a nuisance to boaters when blooms form.
By July 27, in a late night, “hastily called news conference,” according to the Toledo Blade, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson had announced:
Raw lake water around the intake mechanisms that draw Toledo’s drinking water from Lake Erie have shown the first signs this year of the dangerous toxin that can cause liver and kidney damage and resulted in a nearly three-day water crisis last August.
[Chuck Campbell, city commissioner of water treatment,] said some of the new monitoring devices helped the city make the detection today much earlier than it could have last year. The city now has three water-quality-monitoring sondes — one on a floating Lake Erie buoy, one placed inside the water-intake crib, and one at the city’s low service pumping station. The devices give advance warning of water conditions and allow the city to adjust chemical treatment.
Humans are affected with a range of symptoms including skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pain, blisters of the mouth and liver damage. Swimmers in water containing cyanobacterial toxins may suffer allergic reactions, such as asthma, eye irritation, rashes, and blisters around the mouth and nose.
On February 18 we reported that algae in the city’s raw water had been detected by happenstance last summer when the operator of Toledo’s Sandusky water plant noticed that his plant “had sucked up a bloom of a blue-green algae” and sent a sample to a nearby lab.
Given the potentially dire consequences of cyanobacteria exposure, real-time monitoring is the only feasible way of protecting public health. But EPA requires no testing for possible algae contamination, despite years of internal agency debate.
Toledo officials say they are able to adequately treat for cyanobacteria at current levels. But Kelly Frey, superintendent of water treatment in the nearby City of Port Clinton said, “We’re going to be in for a pretty interesting August and September.”