A paper trail between the Ohio EPA and the Mayor of Toledo’s office indicates the concern of state officials over the city’s water treatment plant. As ideastream’s Brian Bull reports, the correspondence preceded the drinking water ban enacted last weekend.
The Toledo Blade received the letters and other documents through a public records request.
230 pages in all, the highlights include a June 9th letter from Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler to Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins. Collins writes about the “lack of progress” being made to address necessary improvements to the city’s public water system. He goes on to write that the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant is quote -- “vulnerable to potential failures” -- that could severely impact Toledo’s ability to provide "adequate quantities of safe water" to local residents.
The city’s Director of Public Utilities, Edward Moore, wrote back a week later, inviting the Ohio EPA to work with the city in resolving some of the perceived issues with the water treatment system.
The City Council did approve $300 million in improvements last year, after then-Mayor Michael Bell shared some of the Ohio EPA’s continuing concerns. Plans are underway to help the facility better detect microcystin, the toxin produced by blue-green algae that prompted the ban.
Andrew Kear is a professor with Bowling Green State University’s Department of the Environment and Sustainability. He says this isn't new to Mayor Collins, who was previously on the council.
“Moving the bureaucratic wheel isn’t always quick and more than likely, the City’s gonna have to get funds from residents, but also from the state and federal government as well, if they can kick in some money.”
Neither the City of Toledo nor the Ohio EPA returned calls in time for this story. But in the Blade’s article, the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant superintendent is quoted as saying there is NO connection between long-needed upgrades to the plant, and the recent spike in algae blooms that lead to the citywide drinking ban.
That incident left roughly half a million people in Ohio’s fourth largest city without drinking water through last weekend into Monday morning.