Q&A: There were warnings, so why wasn't the water crisis prevent - CBS46 News

Q&A: There were warnings, so why wasn't the water crisis prevented?

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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Questions continue to pour into our newsroom about the way the water crisis was handled.

Nearly one month ago, our Maia Belay was out on the lake with local experts who warned us how bad the algae would be this year, and that our drinking water could be affected.

"My biggest concern is the drinking water," said Sandy Bihn of the Lake Erie Waterkeepers.  "Our intake plant is only a few miles offshore, and our intake plant is surrounded by this algae."

So if we knew just how bad things could get almost one month ago, why did we end up with toxins in our water?  Maia Belay spoke with the same experts who predicted this could happen.

Maia Belay: Sandy, you were telling me you've been concerned about this ever since Carrol Township lost their drinking water last year. Why have we not learned from what happened?

Sandy Bihn: I can't answer that.  A lot of us were asking for microcystin standards, which don't exist. They are the world health organization standards. For the testing and the treatment, the plants really didn't get any assistance from the federal or state governments to help them out when they asked for it and so we've lost a year, and whether this was preventable or not is unknown.

MB: Who is to blame about what's happening here? It seems like there's a lot of different players involved.

SB: I guess the answer is all of us because everyone who is contributing phosphorus, which is anything from fertilizer to waste water treatment plants, which are the baseline of the phosphorus coming in.

MB: Thank you so much Sandy for your time and just like she said we are all responsible. It's not just one person's fault for what happened here. We are responsible for what happens in our lake. This is the water that we drink.  You were telling me this is only the start of algae season it's only going to get worse.

SB: This is only the start of algae season but I can tell you that Sunday this was much denser. The algae was much more collected here, and now with the winds it's dispersed a bit, which is a good thing.

MB: There has been a bit of Toledo bashing going on here. People are saying that more should have been done. People are not trusting the administration right now. We've taken lots of viewer questions about that. But you are saying they've been doing everything they can to be proactive because there is no testing. There are no national standards about what's in our water as far as microcystin.

SB:  They were not required to test for microcystin. So they did that proactively. They've been treating it proactively. They should be commended for that. As far as how it played out this is the first time this has ever happened in the country. There was no ‘here's what you do, A, B, C' in this type of situation.

MB: Is there anything we can do just as individuals to keep the lake healthy?

SB: All sources of phosphorus have to be reduced. We can start in our homes with rain gardens, no phosphorus in the lawn fertilizers rain barrels. You know, native plants that have deeper roots.

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