Toledo Water Ban Wake Up Call

A physical scientist with the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes hopes this past weekend’s tap water ban in Toledo serves as a wake-up call for governments on both sides of the border.

After 400,000 people in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan were told not to drink tap water for three days, Chicago’s mayor is calling for a summit to discuss the proliferation of algae blooms in the Great Lakes. has reached out to Windsor mayor Eddie Francis’s office to see if the invitation has been extended to him as well.

Officials in Toledo ordered the ban after finding high levels of microcystin in the potable water supply, a toxin linked to large algae blooms in the lakes that feed off agricultural runoff. Scientist Raj Bejamkiwar says while Canada has more work to do to mitigate phosphorus runoff. “Especially on the Lake Erie watershed,” he says. “If you look at the archived report, the recent one and even the 2010 one, especially near the Leamington area, Sturgeon Creek is full of nutrients. Near the Pigeon Bay, we always see a lot of algae blooms coming in.”

Bejamkiwar says there is always a risk to local drinking water simply because of the sheer size of the blooms. “Since 2011, the blooms are extending all the way from Toledo, Sandusky to Point Pelee National Park surrounding Pelee Island. If you have seen the satellite pictures of 2011 algae blooms, even 2013, now there is a trend, they’re moving towards the central basin too.”

He thinks government’s need to introduce greater regulations to control agricultural runoff and offer incentives to farmers so they will explore alternatives.