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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

Sylvania council to discuss city's safe-water nondisclosure

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sylvania Councilman Mary Westphal plans to have a council meeting to discuss on city officials handled the Toledo water crisis. Sylvania Councilman Mary Westphal plans to have a council meeting to discuss on city officials handled the Toledo water crisis.
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Sylvania City Council will review how the city administration handled the water crisis because of the algae-related microcystin toxin found in Toledo‘‍s water supply. 

Council Chairman Mary Westphal said she is organizing a Committee of the Whole meeting. The meeting date has not been determined. The next council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18.

“We want to make sure we have the facts straight about the water emergency and if we would handle it differently if the same circumstance arose,” she said.

Mrs. Westphal said that she was made aware that Sylvania’s water was safe to drink on Monday, just as the public. Nearly 500,000 Toledo area residents tied into the Toledo water system, such as Sylvania, were told on Aug. 2 not to drink tap water because it had been contaminated by a toxin from an algae bloom in Lake Erie. The do-not-drink advisory was lifted on Monday, Aug. 4.

She said has not spoken to administrators and how it handled the emergency.

Unbeknownst to residents who receive water from Sylvania, when they opened their faucets over last weekend they were receiving safe to drink water because Sylvania cut off its connection ‍to Toledo water right after hearing of the toxin problem. Sylvania residents then were using “safe” water from the two from Sylvania water towers, but weren’t told that by Sylvania officials‍. Many restaurants closed and lost business because of the lack of fresh water, and some lost money later changing filters and scrapping food that had contact with the tap water.

Kevin Aller, city service director, said that water test results conducted by Toledo were not supplied to the city on Aug. 2. It was told its water tested below the threshold, he said. The safe-to-drink level for microcystin found in the Toledo water is recommended by the World Health Organization to be below 1 part per billion.

Councilman Mark Luetke had no comment on whether the city should have alerted residents that they were using stored water that was safe to drink. He was out of town over the weekend and watched the story unfold “on The Blade’s site like everyone else.”

He said Mr. Aller made a prudent decision to preserve the safe water, not knowing how long the crisis was going to last.

Mr. Aller said that had the city announced to residents that Sylvania’s stored water was safe to drink, residents would have begun using the system normally, possibly depleting the storage supply, and thereby forcing Sylvania to reopen the connection to Toledo’s water.

Councilman Luetke said he asked the administration to review how other area localities handled the crisis.

Alice Godsey, public utilities director for the City of Perrysburg, said it also followed instruction to cut off its connection to Toledo’s main water plant, which supplies water throughout Lucas County. Perrysburg customers were using water from one of its water storage tanks from approximately 7 am. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 2. Its water supply serves all of its city residents and some Perrysburg Township residents.

She said that action strained their water system and Perrysburg was forced to once again let Toledo’s water flow freely. Like Sylvania, it followed the do-not-drink ban, and lifted it around 11 a.m. Monday.

Sylvania Councilman Katie Cappellini said that residents complained about Sylvania’s lack of disclosure that the water supply was safe. She found out the water was safe when the public found out on Monday.

“We could have communicated it better to the residents,” she said.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso. 



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