No toxins in Norwalk reservoir

Cary Ashby • Jul 19, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Norwalk water plant superintendent David Ackerman said there were no toxins detected during a recent water quality test at the reservoir.

Ackerman and interim public works director Wally Ritchie also shared information at Tuesday’s council meeting about water quality and new, related signs posted at Veterans Memorial Lake Park. Ritchie said the signs follow Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines and are based on ones from the website.

“We want to keep the signs the same as the EPA, so there’s no confusion,” he added.

One sign informs residents that blue-green algae is common in many Ohio waters and there could be toxins also. The informational sign, which encourages reservoir users to have fun in the water, also warns people to avoid water that “looks like spilled paint;” has surface scum, mats or films; or is discolored or “has colored streaks;” and not to drink the water. It includes photos.

“Just because there is algae doesn’t mean there’s toxins,” Ackerman said. “There is always good algae out there.”

Testing at the reservoir happens every week. It alternates between testing for algae and possible toxins.

“That’s EPA-mandated,” Ackerman said.

Red danger signs will up at the Norwalk reservoir to tell residents to “avoid all contact with the water” and that “algal toxins at unsafe levels have been detected.” The orange sign, also a triangle, informs people that an “algal bloom is present and/or algal toxins have been detected.” In those cases, swimming and wading aren’t recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, people “with certain medical conditions” and pets.

Swimming is not permitted in the reservoir, except during the annual Norwalk triathlon. 

Norwalk workers posted the information signs Wednesday morning — at the north and south entrances. A third is located near the bathrooms in the back of the reservoir. Ritchie said if the tests indicate the algae level is above the EPA levels, the city will put out a press release and the warning or danger signs will be posted at the same locations as the informational ones in addition to other “high-traffic areas.”

“If there is no detection, there is no level (or alarm),” he added. “There are more warning signs than information signs.”

According to the Ohio EPA, “although most blooms are green algae and not harmful, there are some that are actually a type of cyanobacteria that have the ability to produce toxins — called harmful algal blooms (HABs). Remember, you can still boat, fish and recreate in Ohio’s lakes, streams and rivers. Just be aware that HABs exist.”

Ackerman said the algae and toxins don’t impact the drinking water since it is pulled from the lower reservoir. Ritchie added that algae appears in the upper reservoir during the spring and summer since there isn’t a growing pattern in the winter.

Councilman Jordy Horowitz recommended that testing results be put on the city website, which would allow residents access to the information without having to call city hall or council members. 

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