Current Event: EPA suggests triggers for warning of algae in drinking water

  • Up to 48 million people nationwide get drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that could become filled with toxins generated by algae-like bacteria.
  • Water plant operators and other officials could use the guidelines as benchmarks for triggering actions such as stepped-up monitoring, treating water to reduce toxins or issuing health advisories.
  • Pollution from cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae, in Lake Erie left more than 400,000 people in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan without usable tap water for two days last August.
  • Climate change and higher levels of nutrients such as phosphorus may be reason for a rising number of algae contamination cases, scientists say.
  • A number of states, including Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota, Florida and Oklahoma, have their own standards, most based on a 1 ppb limit recommended by the World Health Organization in 1998 and used by more than a dozen countries.
  • EPA: whose 50,000 members produce 80 percent of the nation’s drinking water.
  • Goal:stronger action to cut down on phosphorus and other nutrients that cause algal pollution.

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