Demand EPA Regulate Toxic Algae in Drinking Water


Target: Craig W. Butler, Director of Ohio EPA

Goal: Prevent harmful toxins from algae from getting into drinking water

The water supply of northwestern Ohio was contaminated with toxins produced by algae, leaving residents without drinking water for days. These toxins are produced by too much phosphorous in the environment and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, liver inflammation, and pneumonia if ingested or touched. Urge the EPA to start regulating levels of algae toxins in drinking water and to help cut back on phosphorous emissions.

Although algae is normal in bodies of water such as Lake Erie, sometimes it can produce too much of a toxin called microcystins. These toxins can exist for weeks or even months. The toxic algae are caused by too much phosphorous in the environment, specifically from fertilizers, failing septic tanks, and power plants. Dissolved phosphorous leaks into drinking water supplies and causes harmful algae blooms to thrive.

These toxic algae have been reported in every coastal state in the United States. More rain in many areas and changes in farming techniques have increased agricultural run-off, infecting surrounding water with its toxins and disturbing the delicate balance of organisms there. The United State’s filtration systems are not equipped to filter out these higher-than-average levels of algae toxins, so they were able to slip into the supply, undetected.

Although the water has been declared safe for now, it’s highly likely that the toxins could contaminate drinking water sources in Ohio and in other parts of the country again. Drinking water is not routinely tested for these toxins, and there are no regulations in place for acceptable levels of the substance. Demand that the EPA begin regulating our drinking water for microcystins and changing the amount of phosphorous emissions allowed near our drinking water sources.


Dear Craig Butler,

Half a million Ohio residents went without drinking water for days when voluntary testing found dangerous levels of toxins caused by algae in their water supply. Currently there are no regulations in place regarding these disease-causing toxins. I urge you to enforce testing of drinking water supplies and increase regulations of nearby phosphorous emissions to ensure that this problem does not recur.

Increasing levels of phosphorous from fertilizers, septic tanks, and power plants as well as harmful agricultural practices have caused an overabundance of microcystins produced by algal blooms. These toxins can have far-ranging health effects from stomach upset to life-threatening conditions. It’s unclear how long northwestern Ohio residents had been consuming these toxins before voluntary testing shut down the drinking water supply.

Stop putting the health of United States citizens at risk. I urge you to put regulations in place that require testing drinking water for this toxin and limiting phosphorous run-off into drinking water sources. Access to safe drinking water is necessary to maintain the health and wellbeing of all people.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: David Evers via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Although the EPA cannot regulate the amount of toxins in our water supply from this type of algae, they can issue reasonable recommendations on reducing agricultural runoff that is causing these algae Blooms. Several years ago an environmental group took them to court and actually had a district judge ruled against the EPA and ordered them to create new regulations but so far, nothing has changed.

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