What Happened to Toledo’s Drinking Water: Understanding Microcystins
Joan B. Rose, PhD


This summer, 500,000 residents in and around Toledo, Ohio were alerted that their tap water had been declared undrinkable as a result of microcystin contamination.  For several days, residents could not shower or cook with their tap water and they were instructed to drink bottled water while some restaurants, schools and businesses closed, inconveniencing many.  What is microcystin and how did it get into Toledo’s tap water?

What are Microcystins?

Microcystins are a large class of naturally occurring toxic chemical substances produced by waterborne bacteria known as Microcystis, also called “blue-green algae” or “cyanobacteria.”  Nutrient-rich wastewater and agricultural runoff into water bodies fuel the growth of Microcystis blooms such as one in Lake Erie, the Toledo area’s water source.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these blooms “can persist with adequate levels of phosphorous and nitrogen, temperatures in the 5 to 30 degree C (41 to 86 degrees … READ MORE >>

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Why is it OK to Pee in the Ocean, But Not in the POOL????
Bruce K. Bernard, PhD

A short video produced recently by the American Chemical Society answers the question, “Is it OK to Pee in the Ocean?” with a resounding “yes!” Ocean swimmers, relax, and know that your, eh, “contribution” is processed by the marine environment. Pool swimmers, you are not off the hook. When nature calls, swim to the nearest ladder and find the restroom. READ MORE >>

Addressing Legionella: Public Health Enemy #1 in US Water Systems
Steve Hubbs, PE

As the global community marks World Water Week, August 31- September 5, Steve Hubbs, former water treatment facility operator at the Louisville Water Company, provides his perspective on the most significant public health risk currently associated with US drinking water.

The United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, thanks to the steadfast efforts of thousands of water treatment professionals. The men and women of the water treatment industry implement technologies 24/7 that protect us from former waterborne killers like typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis A.  With those enemies held at bay, what, you may ask, is the greatest microbial threat lurking in US tap water today?  The answer is the bacterium Legionella, public health enemy #1 in US water systems, posing a particular risk to hospital patients. Controlling Legionella will take some novel approaches and regulatory adjustments.

Profile of a Modern Waterborne KillerREAD MORE >>

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Chikungunya in the States
A Guest Article by Sabrina Jacobson

chikungunya

Have you heard about the Chikungunya virus? Although it is rarely fatal, its symptoms include fever and severe joint pain. Originally only present in countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa, it is gaining a presence in the United States after being carried to the Caribbean.  Starting in late 2013, a few Carribbean vacationers contracted Chikungunya, but the number of cases there has increased exponentially. This article will update you on what is happening with Chikungunya in the US since the Water Quality & Health Council’s first report on the virus.

Recently St. Lucie County health officials in Florida have been going door-to-door in order to warn citizens about the spread of the Chikungunya virus. Why should they warn people of this virus that has previously only existed as imported cases? If people contacted this virus only by vacationing in the tropics, why would we need to warn local … READ MORE >>

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Cleaning up Safely after Flooding
Joan B. Rose, PhD

Cleaning up Safely after FloodingTorrential rainfall in the Midwest and Northeast US this week led to flash flooding, filling basements with water and sewage, which can contain hundreds of pathogens.  Residents should assume flood waters are contaminated and that exposure to these waters may raise the risk of diarrhea, dysentery, even hepatitis, skin and eye infections and respiratory disorders.

The first step in the cleanup operation is to remove flood water and sewage and dry the affected area.  Powerful fans and enhanced ventilation are helpful for drying damp structural surfaces.  Meanwhile, it is important to evaluate items contacted by flood waters, deciding what to discard and what to keep.  Whenever possible, a disinfecting solution of water and chlorine bleach should be applied to affected surfaces of saved items.

To help prevent disease transmission associated with flood cleanup, the Water Quality and Health Council offers the following tips:

  • When using a disinfecting solution to clean
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