The good news is that nearly 500,000 people in the Toledo, Ohio area can drink and bathe in tap water again. That's undoubtedly a relief, after the toxin microcystin, produced by a massive algae bloom in Lake Erie, showed up in the local water supply this past weekend, forcing officials to impose a temporary water ban on Saturday. On Monday morning, Toledo mayor D. Michael Collins announced that the water was again safe, after the latest tests no longer showed detectable levels of microcystin. He proved his point by drinking a glass of water.
Officials in other nearby communities, though, maintained their own bans until they could examine the latest data. Initial tests on Saturday has showed concentrations of 1.5 to 2.5 parts per billion, above the 1.0 threshold set by the World Health Organization. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, told the Toledo Blade newspaper that the level may have spiked to 3 ppb in some areas.
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That caution was well-advised, since microcystin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances and muscle weakness, is pretty nasty stuff. It's made a lot of people sick over the years, and is potentially fatal for people with other health problems. An outbreak in Brazil in 1996 killed 52 kidney dialysis patients, according to a 2009 report on microcystin by California environmental officials.