This last week, we had a water advisory enacted that said that there were toxins in the water supply courtesy of a blue-green algae bloom in the lake from which our town (and a few others) draws water. The advisory said that children under six, immune compromised people, elderly, those with kidney disease, and pets, should not drink the water, but everybody else could. They didn’t give the advisory right away. They waited for four days after knowing about the toxins (cyanotoxins) to release the information. Currently the advisory has been lifted, though I’m not convinced it won’t recur.
But I have questions. First one came as a result of the four days they waited to make the announcement. Officials indicated that they had up to ten days, since the toxins wouldn’t have adverse affects until then. My question? How much do the toxins build in the system and can they be flushed? In other words, is it like lead that bio-accumulates? Unfortunately, no one said anything about that and I haven’t been able to track down the answer.
Second question came up because of the repeated “blue-green algae” language that everyone used in reference to the algae bloom. I wondered if there are other colors. And are other colors unsafe? Why is the color so mentionable? Don’t have the answer to that, either.
It sounds as if there are frequently some level of toxins in the water that are lower than the threshold that requires an advisory. That made me go back to my first question about bio-accumulation.
The town ran out of bottled water very quickly. We were lucky enough to find a few gallons to give the dogs, who are apparently very susceptible to cyanotoxins. More water got shipped into town within a day or so, and the neighboring city opened up a lot of fill spots (they are on a different water system) for people in need. Our city got some distribution points set up as well using water that was trucked in.
All the local Starbucks quit selling any handcrafted drinks. Some restaurants closed. Heating the water only increases the toxicity, so anybody cooking with tapwater could created an added problem for customers. Then there’s ice, soda, washing food, and so on. Other restaurants posted warning signs and kept chugging away.
Water is often a topic of conversation in our world–who has rights to it, where we can get it, is it clean, how can we keep it clean, how can we use it for energy, how can we make it a better habitat for fish and other wildlife, and so on. It seems to me that clean water is a human right. An inalienable right. You can’t give it away or otherwise lose that right. Unfortunately, a whole lot of people don’t agree with me, but this particular event has reminded me how very privileged we are to have clean running water available at any hour of the night and day, and how wrong it is that places like Flint don’t have that. And not just Flint. Every country in the world that doesn’t.