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Ohio EPA Receives Push Back On Proposed Water Testing Rules

Water faucet
Flickr: Luis

Some cities and towns are pushing back against new water testing rules proposed by the Ohio EPA. The state environmental agency wants local water supplies tested weekly for algae. Some water authorities have complained that the testing is too costly and too frequent.

WOSU’s Marilyn Smith talked about some of the issues with the Chief of the EPA's Division of Drinking and Ground Water Mike Baker.

The EPA’s Mike Baker says concerns about the proposed rules will be considered before they become final.

The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Marilyn Smith: The Ohio EPA recently proposed some new rules for water testing around the state. What were those?

Mike Baker: Those were rules. That would require public water systems that are utilizing a lake reservoir or river as their source of drinking water to monitor and test for the Cyanobacteria micro system.

MS: And what exactly is that?

MB: Cyanobacteria's are blue green algae. Commonly referred to as a harmful algae that are capable of producing a variety of different chemicals. Some of which are known to have talks a toxilogical effects.

MS: Aren't cities and municipalities already testing the water on a regular basis for nitrates and other things?

MB: Public water supplies are required to test for a number of different potential constituents in water under federal and state rules. There are no existing regulations that would require them to test for a micro system or other cyanotoxins.

MS: Which as you described is algae. How much harder would it be to add that one component to regular testing the goes on right now?

MB: Well in part that is what we're really proposing to do is to in addition to the other testing that public water systems do that they would be required to do testing for microsystems specifically.

MS: You have been getting some feedback according to what I've read and not all of it is good. Some towns and cities are complaining that this would be too costly. Some say it's unnecessary. What do you say to that?

MB: We have been working with water systems over the last several years to deal with the increasing occurrence of harmful algal blooms across the state. As you may be aware Lake Erie just experienced the largest bloom on record. We've experienced several similar blooms on Lake Erie over the last several years. Ohio River experienced a shore to shore algae bloom for 600 miles of the Ohio River.

We've seen an increasing occurrence of blooms on Ohio's lakes and reservoirs being used as a source of public drinking water. So we know it is an increasing problem, but yet we don't have a full picture of just what the full extent of blooms are across the state either in all of the water bodies or certainly throughout the year what is occurring.

MS: Now is some pushback has included one person in the northern part of the state that said 'Perhaps testing once a month rather than once a week would be sufficient.' Is that sufficient as far as you're concerned?

MB: We do think it's important for us to get that baseline monitoring for at least one year. So we better understand what's occurring at our public water systems. We have accepted comments which you have heard some about, primarily concerned about the cost of that testing.

MS: Can the EPA help to abate that or mitigate its amount?

MB: Well Ohio EPA for the last year has been offering grants to water systems and that essentially anybody who has requested funding to purchase equipment and supplies and training to do their own analysis for microsystem we have been providing grants to do that.

MS: What about this notion that algae is not a threat during the colder winter months. In the perhaps testing is superfluous during that time. Do you agree with that?

MB: We don't have enough testing to validate that at all we just don't have the information to know whether that is the case. Although we do know that we have several lakes in Ohio where we have experienced harmful algal blooms and cyano toxin production year round including underneath ice.