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🚰 "Toledo's Turnaround From Toxic Algae"


Photo by Chang Patrick / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Patekka Bannister | Chief of Water Resources | City of Toledo
Category: 🚰 Utility

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:17] “In 2014, there was a harmful algal bloom […] in the Lake Erie area, and it just got stuck right by our [utility] intake and […] sat there for a couple of days. That's when the state had […] recommended that we issue a do not drink advisory and recommend that people use bottled water or some water that was prepared. So there was an emergency action that was taken, […] calling in the assistance of the National Guard to help with mobile drinking water to neighborhoods and bottled water was distributed through high schools, while the plant was working on the best treatment methods. […] So that taught us a lot about emergency crisis planning within our utility.”

[6:51] “Communication actually went out through social media, through Facebook, in the middle of the night. So those that were up early Saturday morning had the opportunity to see that there was an issue and then they ran out and got bottled water. And by the time everyone else got up a lot of the water was already gone. So people began to kind of span out into the region, to different stores to try to find bottled water. […] And that's another thing that we looked at after, was making sure that people are prepared beforehand, and not having to be in that panic mode.”

[9:37] “[On the Toledo website] you can see in real time the conditions of the lake and it provides the basic data. […] So we now have a network of different organizations and agencies that we work with that communicate constantly. […] So it's a lot more organized and better partnerships since 2014. We also had plans in the works to create a capital improvement program with some upgrades. So of course, that was fast tracked after the do not drink advisory. […] It's a $500 million project with several upgrades, some of them are for […] algal blooms, and some are just were needed to expand the plant and allow for additional time for treatment.”

[17:12] “We worked with an engineering firm […] on crisis planning, not just for a do not drink advisory, but for making sure that we were up to date on all of our planning for electrical outages and natural gas shortages and things like that. […] And then we do training and upgrade our plan […] every year. […] Communication […] was the big piece that needed to be finalized and upgraded as well. And […] it was thought that it was best […] to create a dashboard. […] So that that dashboard was created to [be] a red light, green light, yellow light, to give people an idea of the conditions in the lake and the conditions at the plant. But as time has gone by, and we've been able to continue with our social media and getting our message out there, […] we found that there was no need to have that dashboard. And the community is starting to feel more comfortable with our ability to treat the water.”

[20:32] “We've received questions from from Asia, when they're having issues with algal blooms. We did have a community that was going through algal bloom on the West Coast and their first question was, can we get a copy of your emergency plan? […] We share any of our research and any of the work that we have done.

[23:43] “Looking at all the challenges that are in the [water] industry now, you have to have a broader view, not just looking at your utility, creating water, cleaning water, looking at wastewater systems, but you need to look at the long term, and then how that impacts people. I mean, we're really in the people business. So we are creating a product for public health, which has come out a lot during the pandemic, because in order to wash your hands, you need water. Hospital systems need water. […] But also, thinking about the affordability.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 31 min | 🗓️ 01/24/2022
✅ Time saved: 29 min

Additional Links:
Blog: ”Five Years Later: Lessons From the Toledo Water Crisis”