Toxic drinking water in Ohio, a problem in Abilene?

Abilene water utilities department works to keeps water safe

ABILENE, Texas - Toledo, Ohio went into a state of emergency last weekend after toxic drinking water was discovered.

The water had been contaminated by toxins in blue-green algae in Lake Erie. The algae were being fed by farm fertilizer run-off and sewage treatment plants. The over 400,000 residents quickly cleared store shelves of bottled water. The city even advised residents not to boil the water because it would increase the concentration of the toxin. The ban was lifted Monday and the mayor had the first glass of clear water.

As for Abilene, Wayne Lisenbee, assistant director of the water utilities department, said they look for different algae when treating the water that runs through the taps here.

"Most of the algae we have in this part of Texas, create taste and odor problems and that's primarily what we watch for," said Lisenbee.

He said the chance of any algae that could possibly spread toxins into the water are very low.

"We don't have an overbearing algae problem at this time," Lisenbee said. "Actually this year our algae numbers are lower than we've seen in the past two years. This is a milder summer."

He said Abilene is one of the few plants in Texas that has a certified lab to do additional testing if needed.

"The city of Abilene is fortunate to have our own environmental lab that is certified with the state and also with national organizations," said Lisenbee. "So we perform most of our tests on a daily, weekly and monthly basis."

Lisenbee said if the problem does arise, "we have chemicals on hand that can be used to remedy the presence of algae if it becomes excessive in our raw water supplies."

Those raw water supplies are Lake Fort Phantom Hill, Hubbard Creek Reservoir in Breckinridge and the O.H. Ivie Reservoir, south of Coleman.

There are three stages tap water must go through before it comes into homes. The first stage is a clarification process where the raw un-treated water is mixing with chemicals. In the second stage, there are three filters of gravel, sand and coal it must go through. The filters are six feet deep and catch any additional sediment that was missed. The final stage is a disinfection of chlorine and ammonia to kill additional bacteria.

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