EPA Releases Health Advisories for Algal Toxins in Drinking Water

As summer comes into full bloom and water temperatures rise, the potential for harmful algal blooms also rises. Drinking water sources throughout the United States face the threat from this environmental challenge. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that “between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to algal toxin contamination.” (EPA Issues Health Advisories to Protect Americans from Algal Toxins in Drinking Water, 05/06/2015).

With so many people affected by this threat, the US EPA has developed health advisory values that utilities can use to protect consumers from elevated levels of algal toxins in drinking water. In a news report released May 6th, 2015, the EPA recommends “0.3 micrograms per liter for microcystin and 0.7 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin as levels not to be exceeded in drinking water for children younger than school age.” For all other ages, the levels are slightly higher at “1.6 micrograms per liter for microcystin and 3.0 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin.” (EPA Issues Health Advisories to Protect Americans from Algal Toxins in Drinking Water, 05/06/2015).

While health advisories are not regulations, the EPA recommends that utilities notify the public not to drink or boil the water if the results exceed the health advisory levels. Long term exposure to high levels of algal toxins can have serious health effects including gastroenteritis and liver and kidney damage.

Residents of Ohio are well versed in the damage that can be done from Harmful Algal Blooms after half-a-million residents of Toledo were without drinking water for two days last August. Harmful Algal Blooms continue to plague Ohio Waters with Buckeye Lake and Grand Lake St. Mary’s both having current Recreational Public Health Advisories posted. These advisories warn individuals who are elderly or very young and people with compromised immune systems that swimming or wading in the water is not recommended because toxin levels exceed the recommended threshold.

As seen in the current Algal Toxin Results posted by the Ohio EPA, many public utilities in Ohio continue to face the problem of cyanotoxins in their raw water. To help utilities face this problem, the Ohio EPA is awarding grant money for the purchase of cyanotoxin testing equipment and training. The original grant application deadline of June 1st, 2015, was removed and the Ohio EPA continues to accept applications as long as funds are available. The maximum amount granted to each public water system was also increased from $20,000 to $30,000. Public utilities interested in seeking funding should visit the Ohio EPA website for more information.

HABs have a deep impact on the Drinking Water Industry, and as your resource for defensible data, we at Alloway strive to provide you with the latest news and EPA updates. To learn more about the US EPA’s Health Advisory for Algal Toxins, click on the link provided. You can also visit the Ohio EPA Harmful Algal Blooms website for more information.