Toledo Escapes The Looming Bloom, Turns Its Taps Back On

A weekend-long ban on drinking tap water in Toledo, Ohio, was lifted early Monday. WCPN's Nick Castele reports that some 400,000 residents in the region had been told not to drink the water after health officials found that Lake Erie, which supplies most of the area's drinking water, might have been affected by a harmful algal bloom.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Residents of Toledo, Ohio are able to drink their tap water again. Over the weekend authorities banned 400,000 people in the city and surrounding areas from using it. They were told not to drink it, bathe in it, or cook with water. The ban came after authorities found high levels of a toxin linked to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Ohio's governor declared a state of emergency in three counties and residents scrambled to find bottled water, but after intensive chemical treatment, Toledo's Mayor D. Michael Collins, stood in front of news cameras this morning and downed a glass of the local H20.

MAYOR D. MICHAEL COLLINS: I'm pretty thirsty right now because it's been a long day.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's right, drink that water.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

COLLINS: Here's to you Toledo. You did a great job.

CORNISH: Nick Castele of member station WCPN was in Toledo today speaking to relieved but wary residents.

NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: Around the stadium where Toledo's minor-league baseball team, the Mudhens, play, restaurants were reopening after being closed this weekend because of the water ban. One restaurant, Ye Olde Durty Bird, is now serving tap water. General manager Julie Ketterman says she did what the city recommended - replacing filters in the ice machine, and letting the water run out.

JULIE KETTERMAN: We did flush everything out. Everything is back to normal. We've made all phone calls and made sure that whatever was needed to be done, you know, with the entire system here to make sure that it is safe for everybody.

CASTELE: Ketterman says she picked up a big tank of clean water during the do not drink advisory, and she's going to keep it.

KETTERMAN: We want to be better prepared for the future, should this, you know, occur again.

CASTELE: Out of the restaurant's patio customer Jamalat Abu-Hajar is sitting down at a table. She's ordered a sprite.

JAMALAT ABU-HAJAR: 'Cause I still don't know what I'm - if I want to actually drink the water or not.

CASTELE: She says she's looking forward to taking a shower. Abu-Hajar says she recalls when Toledo residents used to pride themselves on their clean water drawn from Lake Erie, but now she says Ohioans need to do more to clean up the lake. She refers to a statewide campaign to address the problem.

ABU-HAJAR: Our clean like initiative just has to take a step forward - an actual progressive step forward - not just people saying that they're going to do something and wear T-shirts and - somebody actually going out trying to fix this problem.

CASTELE: Inside the restaurant, Martell Nelson is just here about a job application. Still, he says he's been worrying for years about the algae blooms.

MARTELL NELSON: I haven't fished in a long time 'cause - due to the - how the water looks so green. I knew something was very wrong even a couple of years ago. I walk by the water. I go fishing. I said I wouldn't even want to fish here anymore.

CASTELE: For now Toledo residents are flushing out their pipes to make sure the drinking water is safe, and state officials said they'll be working to prevent the algae blooms from contaminating the water in the future. For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Toledo, Ohio.

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