Toledo has been hogging all the press lately with that minor inconvenience of algae-related toxins in its drinking water (see collection of stories here), but algae blooms have become a fairly common issue in many areas (see story linked above about North Carolina). The main culprit is agricultural run-off, which provides nutrients for algae growth, and such growth becomes particularly aggressive in warm, still waters. The run off can come from not only row crop fertilizer applications but also from CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operations (see EPA info). (That “hogging” reference was not purely gratuitous.)
The algae typically involved in such blooms produces microcystin, a toxin that can damage the liver in humans and other animals. (more info on microcystin here – caution: embedded video auto starts).
Toledo obviously has incurred huge expenses in dealing with the problem, and there is the potential for harm to people and animals. So far, I’ve seen no reports of litigation, but water suppliers should now be on notice of potential exposure if they do not take reasonable steps to detect & eliminate the toxin, and the agricultural operations which likely contribute to such blooms are also potential targets, not only by individuals but also by the water suppliers.
In the meantime, I’ll stick with the cooler, wind-swept seas of the the imagination.
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