November 24, 2014

Elyria
Partly sunny with showers
60°F
test

Water officials across Lorain test for algal bloom

Algal bloom contamination that led to a ban on tap water use in Toledo beginning Saturday has not been found in Lorain County water supplies, local officials said Sunday.

Water plants in Avon Lake, Lorain and Vermilion serve most of the county. Elyria’s water plant is in Lorain.

Elyria’s plant, which processes an average of 15 million to 16 million gallons of water daily, serves about 125,000 households, said Sam Jacobs, Elyria water filtration superintendent. Besides Elyria, the plant serves Amherst, Carlisle Township, Elyria Township and parts of Sheffield Township, as well as some Northern Ohio Rural Water customers.

Toledo’s ban continued Sunday due to high microcytsin levels. Microstysins can cause diarrhea, vomiting and liver damage.

The ban led to extra testing of Elyria’s water Saturday and Sunday with clean results, Jacobs said. Sampling also was done for Huron and Sandusky. Daily sampling detects whether water is unsafe to drink, but doesn’t tell algae levels, Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the microcystin contamination could spread to Elyria’s water supply depending on water currents, winds and other factors, but it hasn’t so far. “We’ve been testing all summer, and we’ll continue to test,” he said.

Water sampling is done daily at Lorain’s water purification plant and samples continue to be clean, said Mayor Chase Ritenauer. Lorain is in the process of hiring a new water purification superintendent.

Lorain’s plant processes an average of about 10.3 million gallons daily and serves about 23,000 households. Besides Lorain, that plant also serves Amherst, Amherst Township, parts of the Northern Ohio Rural Water system and Sheffield Lake.

Uni-Tech Environmental Services, a private for-profit company, oversees Vermilion’s water and wastewater treatment plants. Christina Faith, Uni-Tech owner, said daily samples have been clean.

The plant, which processes an average of 1.2 million gallons daily and serves about 5,700 households in Vermilion, tests for algae once per week. Faith said maps of algae blooms also are checked.

“We haven’t seen anything develop even close to our area yet,” she said. “But you just never know. It can pop up at any time depending on your rainfall and your temperatures.”

Steve Heimlich, Avon Lake Regional Water Plant filtration manager, said extra testing specifically for algae was done Saturday and samples were clean. The plant does daily sampling and algae sampling three times per week.

The plant processes about 21 million gallons daily and serves 80,000 households. Besides Avon Lake, Avon, parts of North Ridgeville and the Northern Ohio Rural Water system and parts of Sheffield and Sheffield Lake are served in the county. Parts of Ashland, Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron, Medina and Wayne counties also are served.

Officials said Toledo’s contamination illustrates the need for more federal and state taxpayer money in Lorain County to improve infrastructure to deal with stormwater runoff that is causing contamination. Ritenauer said heavier rainfall due to climate change is exacerbating the problem. He said more filtration systems and retention ponds need to be built.

Ritenauer said retention projects cost millions, but prevent contamination. He noted stormwater contamination is a regional problem, with contamination from other communities affecting cities like Toledo and potentially Lorain in the future.

“With the weather patterns the way they are now, this really ought to be looked at from our federal and state stakeholders,” he said. “We’re all in this together.”

Faith said in addition to retention projects, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture need to pass stricter laws on chemicals allowed in fertilizers. Water runoff containing fertilizers from farms is a major contamination cause.

“You can’t control mother nature if you have heavy rain,” she said. “But if you’re able to control what the farmers are putting on the ground, that has a lot to do with it.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 oregoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.