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Bottled water supply drying up

Alissa Widman Neese • Aug 3, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Sandusky residents, keep drinking up — the water is fine, at least for now.

Stocking up, however, may pose a problem.

Early Saturday, individuals in Toledo and its surrounding areas learned toxins from Lake Erie algal blooms contaminated their water supplies, rendering all water indefinitely undrinkable.

The harmful bloom is isolated in Lake Erie's western basin, and hasn't affected any water in Erie or Ottawa counties, according to recent reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Even so, by Saturday night you'd be hard-pressed to find bottled water in any store in the local region.

"Some people are prematurely panicking, and thinking the water here isn't safe," said Breeann Hohman, watershed coordinator for the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District.

Individuals flocked to area grocery stores and gas stations, clearing their shelves within hours.

Many stores placed limits on how many cases of bottled water could be purchased at one time.

People took to social media to discuss the contaminated Toledo water, with several spreading misinformation about local water supplies along the way.

Some from the local area said they were taking water to relatives and friends in Toledo, where supplies quickly dried up.

Others falsely claimed Sandusky's water was contaminated, or admitted they were just stocking up in case contamination occurred. 

Sandusky city manager Eric Wobser used Twitter to update residents Saturday, and to assure them Sandusky's water is still safe and drinkable.

Sandusky and adjacent city water systems, including Huron, tested their water supplies early Saturday and found no traces of harmful Lake Erie toxins, called microcystins, he said.

"We will test daily for now and provide updates on any status changes," Wobser said.

Also on Twitter, Wobser said city employees and individuals from Bay View delivered two trucks of water to a school in Toledo on Saturday.

Contaminated water in Toledo cannot be boiled to remove the toxins, because heating the water actually makes them more harmful.

Drinking the contaminated water can cause liver damage, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, according to reports from the Associated Press.

It is safe to wash hands or shower in it, but it cannot be given to pets or used in any food preparation.

Gov. John Kasich has declared a state of emergency for Fulton, Lucas and Wood counties, and no statement has been made on when water in those areas could be safe to drink again.

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