Local plants seek state money for algal bloom toxin testing

Sandusky area officials running water filter plants are trying to get their share of new Ohio EPA money that’s been made available for plants battling algal bloom toxin problems.

The agency has set aside $1 million to… make grants of up to $10,000 available to help public water systems that are trying to upgrade their ability to test for algal bloom toxins such as microcystin, said Dina Pierce, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Norwalk and Sandusky are among the communities seeking the money.

Norwalk already has applied for the money, Pierce said.

Norwalk has three water reservoirs for its public water supply. It draws water for its drinking water supply from a lower reservoir but has been battling microcystin toxin problems produced by a harmful algal bloom in its upper reservoir.

Since water is drawn from the lower reservoir that has not had the problems, drinking water in Norwalk remains safe. However, the city has closed the upper reservoir and put up signs warning people to keep themselves and their pets from the water.

Norwalk has continued to treat the upper reservoir with chemicals to try to eliminate the algal bloom and is collecting new samples to run further tests for algal bloom toxins, said Jim Warner, a lab technician at the city’s water filter plant.

Sandusky has recently spent thousands of dollars to upgrade its testing abilities, said Doug Keller, water filter plant supervisor.

Keller said the city spent about $2,000 for a new microscope, about $6,000 for testing equipment and $2,500 for on-site testing for three people on how to run the equipment. The city is interested in obtaining a grant to recover its costs, he said.

Water from the plant remains safe.

Tests taken this week showed a very small amount of microcystin toxin in the raw water taken into the plant, .042 micrograms per liter, but did not show any at all in the finished water released from the plant, said Jim Best, a lab technician at the plant.

He said the plant continues to monitor the situation closely, including looking at raw water under the microscope three times a week to look at algae.

Tests last week did not show detectable levels of microcystin toxin in either raw water or treated water, Keller said.

Last week, Gov. John Kasich announced a series of new initiatives to address Lake Erie’s algal bloom crisis. The $1 million in grants for water plant testing is among the governor’s new measures.

Other measures include $150 million for no-interest loans to water plants seeking to upgrade, $1.25 million in new conservation subsidies to farmers to reduce runoff into Lake Erie and $2 million to Ohio universities for further research on algal blooms.


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