City warned by Ohio EPA of ‘imminent vulnerability’ of drinking waterWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Two months before an algae-related toxin triggered a do-not-drink water advisory for the Toledo region, city officials — including Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins — were warned by a state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official that the condition of the city’s water-treatment plant could prevent the city from being able to provide safe drinking water to citizens.
“I cannot underscore boldly enough the precarious condition of Toledo’s drinking water system and the imminent vulnerability to failure,” Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler wrote in a June 9 letter to Collins.
“The City’s public water system, and in particular the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant, is vulnerable to potential failures that could severely impact the City’s ability to provide adequate quantities of safe water to its citizens,” the letter read. “While the City has indicated they are working toward this end, Ohio EPA is not yet convinced that adequate progress is being made.”
Butler said the city remained in regulatory violation by having failed to correct problems with the plant’s sedimentation vent and alum system, which were cited for “significant deficiencies” in a Feb. 6 notice and also noted the city also did not appear to be “on a path to timely comply with the deadlines for the remaining significant deficiencies identified in the June 10, 2013 letter.”
In the June 9 letter, Butler demanded “an acceptable schedule with detailed milestones” to correct the plant’s problems within a week. If not, he would propose “a schedule that assures the City can reliably provide safe supplies of water as expeditiously as possible as well as a schedule for long term planning.”
Edward A. Moore, the city’s director of public utilities, responded in a June 16 letter, which referenced a conversation Collins had with Butler on June 11, including an offer to send staff to Toledo to help resolve issues.
In an emailed statement Aug. 7, Collins said Ohio EPA was satisfied with the city’s response and progress on making needed repairs. He also insisted conditions at the plant did not lead to the city’s water advisory, which lasted Aug. 2-4.
“The Collins Park Water Treatment Plant has been in need of repairs for many years, I realized the extent of the issues when I toured it in 2011,” Collins wrote. “We have discussed in great detail the June 9th letter with staff of the Ohio EPA and with their Director, Craig Butler including an in person meeting on July 23rd of this year.
“Our issues this past weekend are not related to conditions at the water treatment plant, they are directly related to toxic algal blooms. It’s clear that the OEPA was satisfied with our progress and our June 16th response. If we do not continue to focus on the issue of harmful algal blooms, the entire region touching Lake Erie could be impacted.”