Toledo’s water problems unlikely in W MI


WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of thousands of people in Toledo, Ohio couldn’t drink their water over the weekend after algae in Lake Erie poisoned it.

The algae in Lake Erie, which provides water to Toledo and many surrounding areas, appears to have created a toxin that was dangerous for human consumption. Monday, city officials said the problem was fixed and the water was safe to drink.

West Michigan gets its water from one of the Great Lakes — so could a similar event happen here? Not likely, one water plant official said.

Myron Erickson runs the water plant that supplies H20 to more than 200,000 people in Wyoming and several other West Michigan communities.

“The organism won’t necessarily produce this compound unless certain conditions are present,” Erickson explained.

Many of those conditions simply doesn’t exist in Lake Michigan, from which his plant draws water, he said.

“Lake Michigan is a colder, deeper lake,” Erickson said, than the smaller, shallower Lake Erie.

Nutrients can feed organisms more easily in shallower lakes and more sunlight penetration helps organisms grow.

In Toledo’s case, those organisms led to a massive algae bloom, which is believed to have caused the problem.

The Lake Michigan water intake for Wyoming’s plant is located about half a mile offshore and about 40 feet below the surface. Erickson said that’s too deep for the sunlight to reach and too far from shore for runoff to feed the organisms that live in the lake.

Wyoming water treatment technicians check for the organisms, including the one that led to Toledo’s algae bloom, on a weekly basis.

“We have identified it on a handful of occasions in our intake. But the conditions aren’t right to cause what we call a bloom of these organisms,” Erickson said.

Wyoming has an emergency water distribution plan in place in case technicians find a more serious problem.

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