Why You Should Care – $$$ and Health

Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution | World news | theguardian.com.

The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Every store and restaurant had to close, people couldn’t bathe or cook with the water.  No tooth-brushing, no rinsing fruit or veggies – all because of the environment’s response to people’s actions.

Residents were warned not to drink the water on Saturday, after inspectors at the city’s water treatment plant detected the toxin known as microcystin. The toxin is produced by microcystis, a harmful blue-green algae; it causes skin rashes and may result in vomiting and liver damage if ingested. It has been known to kill dogs and other animals and boiling the water does not fix the problem; it only concentrates the toxin.

In the 1960s and 1970s, before the ban on phosphorus in laundry detergents, the main sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie were urban and industrial waste. Now it’s farming, which accounts for the vast majority of the phosphorus entering the lake through the Maumee River.

This satellite image provided by NOAA shows the algae bloom on Lake Erie in 2011 which according to NOAA was the worst in decades. Photograph: AP

With warmer waters and more spring rain due to the changing climate, the fertilizer running off the farms feeds the algae.  The massive bloom produces toxins, which poison the water.

Expect more of this in the future.

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