Sunday, August 03, 2014

Two days in #EmptyGlassCity

Poor #lakeerie ! As #algaebloom persists in western end, folks in #nwohio brace for up 7 days of bottled water (half-life of #microcyten #toxin produced by algae) #ohio #algaepocolypse #tekkbabe859 #blondebetweenthemountains
Photo by Vicki Timman 
Stories of Toledo's water problems are not just in the national news, they are in the international news.  The nutshell version: A toxin caused by algae blooms in Lake Erie, where Toledo gets its water, put us under a do-not-drink advisory as of 2:30 a.m. yesterday.  I woke up early and my husband told me not to drink water -- he read the stories on his phone seconds after having his first glass of the day. I had gotten up several times in the middle of the night and had a few sips too.

At about 6:30 a.m., we left the house to go buy water. We knew, from our experiences with winter storms, that water hoarding would be an issue, so when we saw a noisy crowd milling around the entrance to the Kroger closest to our house, we headed to one further west -- the same scene. Meijer looked even worse. Since we knew that Fulton County to the west did not get their water from Toledo, we decided to go to Swanton.  We saw people with carts filled with water.  The shelves there were almost bare already, with just some of those useless tiny pint-sized bottles and some big Fiji 6-packs that were $10.99 each.  We grabbed two of those, even though they seemed insanely expensive, but I ran into a cousin who worked at the store who told me their in-store water filtration system's water should be safe. 

We took 3 gallons -- enough, we thought, to get two adults and two small cats through a day or so, and got the heck out of there. People were already starting to look desperate. My parents have well water, so Jesse had the idea to go to their house and fill up a 5-gallon jug for his cross-country practice. His school district cancelled all athletic events, so he ended up bringing most of the jug home. We have it sitting on our kitchen sink for washing and cooking.  

I went to my Pilates class, which was inexplicably cancelled too, and since I had driven almost half an hour to get there and didn't want to waste my trip, I went to the Hyundai dealership to get my car serviced. They were nice enough to provide me with a bottle of water while I waited for the car, and I got to watch the beginning of the almost nonstop news coverage.  There wasn't much real news, but there were a lot of reports of people driving as far away as Ann Arbor and Findlay to get water and coming up short, and people stocking up on water and selling at a profit.  The news coverage really seemed to feed the water mania -- people really should have bought only what they needed for a few days, considering that Toledo is well-connected by highways and a port, and getting more water shouldn't really be a problem.  

I visited my parents to see how they were doing and to refill a gallon jug we had emptied.  They were watching the news and shaking their heads. My mother had seen someone put so much water in her car that she couldn't drive it away.  By the afternoon, the mayor was saying that water would be distributed free to residents who needed it. That should have calmed the panic, but it didn't seem to slow people down -- even today, after millions of cases were rerouted here from other cities, there was not much water available to buy at the store where I do my grocery shopping.  

Our water "crisis" is not as bad as the ones in West Virginia -- we at least have water to use for flushing toilets.  There is some disagreement on whether it is safe to wash hands or clothes in it, or to bathe in it, but we still have power.

We had planned to go to a movie with friends last night, so we ended up keeping our date -- the movie was open but they had no fountain beverages, only bottled water. They still had popcorn.  We went to dinner in Bowling Green -- which has its own water supply and is not affected by the crisis -- but it seemed like half of Toledo had the same idea. Every place we tried was packed, so we finally decided to just stay at a place that told us to expect a 50-minute wait, and were seated in about half an hour. Service was slow, because none of these college-town restaurants are fully staffed in the summer.  Still, it was nice to relax with friends over drinks as if nothing weird were going on.

Today the news coverage started up again at 6, though there was still nothing much to report.  No one really knows how long this will be going on. Because algae blooms are caused by agricultural runoff, they are going to be a recurring problem unless some major changes are made.  I am hoping that if this water crisis (affecting almost half a million people) has no other effect, it will help the politicians get the will to do take steps to reduce the runoff and make changes to our water filtration system. 

I'm feeling a weird mixture of anxiety and gratitude during all of this. It really is no fun to deal with these issues, but I am grateful that even though some individual residents were selfishly hoarding water, overall, people were helping those in need. Toledo Public Schools athletes helped to distribute water today at some local schools, and the Red Cross was also available to deliver water to people who were homebound.  

We are also very lucky that this problem is relatively minor and confined to a small, local area. If this were a nationwide crisis, we wouldn't be as able to expect help from other cities.  It's a reminder that most of us take safe water for granted, and that we need to appreciate and protect it, and demand that our leaders take steps to protect it as well.

In short, my husband and I (and Mokey and Bean, who are drinking bottled water too) are all okay and just a little inconvenienced.  We don't have a huge stockpile of bottled water, but we have enough for now, and eventually Toledoans will either stop panicking, or the stores will start keeping up with demand.

I am resolved to start keeping a couple of cases of water in my home, as well as food for emergencies, just in case anything like this happens again. I will wait to buy the water until it's widely available again, but I'm not going to be put in the situation of making a 6:30 trek to a neighboring city just so I can make a pot of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. I knew about the St Mary's problem several years ago.

    Didn't realize it was in other Ohio lakes too.

    We keep bottled water (rotating it so it doesn't set, has expiration dates).

    And we keep 3 gallon jugs (3) which we use, but keep full so we have it.

    I just started keeping gallons of water in the bottom of the freezer. I started keeping the water incase the power goes out (to hold freezer a few days). But as I read your note, realized that is also backup water.

    We also keep a case of water in trunk of our cars. This is mostly for kids to grab out running around town.

    We drink out of kleen Kanteens normally. But plastic water bottles make a huge convenience difference. And anything that helps the kids drink water instead of other things is important .


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