Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins opened a rare, 3 a.m. press conference today by emphatically stating on a couple of occasions it is "my decision" to keep the advisory against drinking the city's tap water or returning to normal usage operations in effect until further notice, even though the latest test results from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest the algae-induced toxin has probably dissipated to safe levels by now.
"It is my decision to keep the status quo in effect for at least the next five or six hours," Mr. Collins said, explaining he was still not comfortable with results he was getting in two undisclosed parts of the city from tests performed by the city's own chemists inside Toledo's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant.
"Two tests came back too close for comfort for me," he added.
While there is no state or federally mandated limit for microcystin, the potentially deadly toxin in a harmful form of blue-green algae known as microcystis, the World Health Organization has recommended that the drinking water concentration be kept at 1.0 ppb or less.
The next news conference is scheduled for about 9:30 a.m. today.
One part per billion is roughly the equivalent of a drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Mr. Collins said many of the results will be made public record at a 4 p.m. Toledo City Council Committee of the Whole meeting in One Government Center.
The level in the two suspicious samples was found to be approaching 1.0 ppb in one of them and just over 1.0 ppb in the other, Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Collins said he will err on the side of caution and has ordered additional tests to be performed by the city.
Those tests should be completed later this morning, he said.
"It's my call," he reiterated. "I'm not going to do it [remove the advisory] until I am convinced it's the right thing to do."
Two of 30 tests the city performed most recently were suspicious, Mr. Collins said.
He declined to say from what areas of the city those samples were drawn.
The latest tests performed by the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA came back negative, although those tests were performed differently.
The two suspicious sites will be among six re-sampled by the city this morning, Mr. Collins said.
"My prayer is that by the early morning hours we'll see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
Mr. Collins said he did not expect the need for an extensive flushing of city lines or of residential pipes.
It was unclear what the continuing advisory will mean to restaurant this morning which have been forbidden by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department from reopening until the advisory was lifted, unless they have bottled water to cook their meals and wash their dishes.
Dr. David Grossman, Lucas County health commissioner, said Sunday registered sanitarians were looking for establishments in violation of that order.
Microcystin is the toxin that breached an eight-step treatment process at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant which had never failed to neutralize it in the past.
It is the same toxin which killed 75 people in a kidney dialysis center in Brazil in 1995, prompting a major investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More chemicals, such as powdered activated carbon, have been added to the water-treatment process to bring down the levels inside the plant.
The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department said Saturday the toxin had been found in Toledo-area tap water at concentrations of 1.5 ppb to 2.5 ppb.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) told The Blade on Sunday night an undisclosed U.S. EPA official told her in passing during a conference call there was believed to be a spike as high as 3 ppb in tap water, three times the World Health Organization's recommendation.
Tom Henry - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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