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Toledo Water Crisis Sparks Creation of Statewide Protocol for Toxin Testing

Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 5:04 AM

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It’s not often that government acts quickly to set scientific standards. But that’s what happened as a result of the Toledo water crisis. ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports.

When local officials in Toledo realized their water might be toxic, they issued a ban on drinking it. Then they called for help from the state and federal government to confirm the results.

Microcystin testing is fairly new for municipal water systems, and there’s no perfect method. Officials disagreed about which to use. So they looked at results from five different labs.

Some showed no toxins in the water. One showed levels too high for drinking water, according to the World Health Organization’s standard.

Toledo officials decided not to take any risk until that test came back clean.

“I’m going to take the tool that is going to err on the side of protecting the public,” said Brenda Snyder, chief chemist for the city’s Water Division.

It’s that test, with some tweaking, that Ohio EPA now wants all public drinking water systems to adopt.

“We will be able to have confidence that we will be seeing consistent results,” said Heidi Griesmer, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Snyder, with the Toledo Water Division, said that this is the best test we have for now, but better methods still need to be developed.

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