US & Canada

Three-day water ban in Ohio lifted

Toledo Mayor D Michael Collins drinks a glass of tap water after a news conference in Toledo, Ohio, 4 August 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Toledo Mayor Michael Collins drank tap water to show his confidence in the lifting of the ban

A water ban for about 400,000 people in the US state of Ohio has been lifted after tests showed toxin levels from an algae bloom were no longer dangerous.

"Our water is safe," Toledo Mayor Michael Collins said on Monday, finishing his press conference by drinking a glass of city water.

The ban began on Saturday after algae bloomed on the west side of Lake Erie, where the city gets most of its water.

Officials warned boiling water could increase the concentration of toxins.

The main toxin, microcystin, leads to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and can affect liver functions if ingested, but it is rarely deadly to humans, health officials said.

Water systems in homes and business must be flushed out before water can now be used, the city council declared.

Image copyright AP
Image caption This water sample was taken near Toledo's water intake crib

But testing done by the city, state and the US environmental protection agency all came back indicating below-dangerous toxin levels.

Algae blooms are common in the summer in Lake Erie, often caused by run-off from overfertilised land or malfunctioning septic systems.

But Toledo's antiquated water treatment systems were also at fault, Mr Collins said.

The city's mayor said he will seek funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost of the crisis.

Image copyright NASA
Image caption A Nasa satellite photo of the recent algae bloom
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Volunteers distributed bottled water to households

"We took a huge hit from a financial perspective," he said.

Over the weekend, the Ohio National Guard gave out 33,000 US gallons (125,000 litres) of clean water across 10 water distribution centres in Toledo.

And Ohio officials were investigating claims of price gouging for water during the ban, the Toledo Blade newspaper reported.

Earlier, Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency for three counties in Ohio, allowing the state to direct resources to the affected areas.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Algae blooms near the city's water intake
Image copyright AP
Image caption The city, along with the US National Guard, distributed thousands of gallons of clean water

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