TOLEDO: Cities and counties that operate water treatment plants around Ohio are pushing back against a state proposal to require weekly tests for toxic algae in drinking water, arguing that monitoring isn’t needed year round and that it would cost too much, according to an Associated Press review.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants new regulations in place by next summer to both strengthen drinking water protection and get a better understanding of the threats from harmful algae blooms.
New requirements are being drafted by the agency for testing and treating drinking water and tracking toxic algae.
The changes are coming as concern grows over the increasing number of harmful algae blooms being detected nationwide. Ohio has been dealing with them from top to bottom in recent years — this summer saw the largest algae outbreak ever recorded on Lake Erie and another bloom that spread across much of the Ohio River.
The state EPA says that right now it’s hard to figure out how big the problem is because reporting programs are voluntary, and that’s one reason new regulations are needed for the 130 public water systems that get their drinking water from lakes, rivers and reservoirs.
It asked water plant operators to weigh in on the proposed rules earlier this fall.
Most of those who responded said the costs for smaller public water systems would be hefty, with some estimating that spending would go up as much as $25,000 for testing alone at each plant, according to the responses, obtained by the AP through a public records request.
“Water plants just don’t have that kind of money,” wrote Joe Bottegal, who’s with the city of Steubenville’s water department.
Nearly as many don’t think there’s a need for weekly testing in the winter months when algae blooms are no longer in the water.
Cutting testing to just once a month for at least part of the year would make sense and save water plants a great deal of money, wrote Tyler Converse, the water superintendent in Canton who’s also chair of the Water Utility Council in the state.
The head of the water plant in Lorain questioned why all public water suppliers were being asked to make changes when many have had no problems with the toxins.
The proposed regulations aren’t final, and the state EPA will look at making some changes based on the comments it received, said agency spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer.
The EPA director would have authority to reduce the amount of testing required for individual water suppliers if warranted, she said.