The harmful toxin found in Lake Erie that caused a water crisis in Ohio's fourth-largest city this weekend has raised concerns nationally. That's because no states — including Texas — require testing for such toxins, which are caused by algal blooms. And there are no federal or state standards for acceptable levels of the toxins, even though they can be lethal.
In Toledo, Ohio, where voluntary tests at a water treatment plant found elevated levels of the toxin microcystin, which is produced by blue-green algae, the city is urging residents and the several hundred thousand people served by its water utility not to drink tap water, even if they boil it. Exposure to high levels of microcystin can cause abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, liver inflammation, pneumonia and other symptoms, some of which are life-threatening. Restaurants have closed and there are shortages of bottled water as far as 100 miles away.
In Texas, which has battled blue-green algae problems at several of its lakes, Terry Clawson, the spokesman for the state's Commission on Environmental Quality, said surface water data has "not demonstrated levels of algal toxins that show any cause for alarm."