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microcystin

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Four years ago, the city of Toledo told more than 450,000 residents to immediately stop drinking water out of the tap. 

That's after a toxin called microcystin was detected in the water. The toxin came from a bloom of cyanobacteria that had surrounded the city's water intake in Lake Erie. 

The incident caused panic among some residents, hoarding of water, even fights at bottled water distribution sites - along with a lot of unwanted national media attention.

And it taught the city some hard lessons.

What happens to the water Toledo takes from Lake Erie

Municipal water treatment is a painstaking and complicated process.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a health advisory for microcystin. That’s the toxin that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014.

It’s released by a kind of cyanobacteria that’s been forming on Lake Erie every year, and it can hurt your liver.

Satellite image of algal bloom in Lake Erie taken in 2015.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Several environmental groups have filed a notice threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it doesn't take action to clean up Lake Erie.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

 

It's been two years since drinking water in Toledo was contaminated by cyanobacteria in Lake Erie.

Four hundred thousand Toledo-area residents couldn't drink the water for a few days.

 

That fired up Pam Taylor to start tracking how Lake Erie's been getting contaminated.

 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Toledo officials are stressing that the city's water is safe to drink as they continue to monitor for the toxin produced by Lake Erie cyanobacteria blooms  that shut down services two weeks ago to about 400,000 people.

Officials say tests on untreated water coming into a city plant are showing a "strong presence" of the toxin microcystin, but the treated water is safe.