Toxin concerns lead to stepped up water testing in Erie County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Sun bathers lined the shores of the Erie Basin Marina Monday, but as they soaked in the beauty of where the Buffalo River meets Lake Erie, they couldn’t help but wonder if an ugly intruder might find its way to Buffalo.

The sun bathers are painfully aware of the giant blue green algae bloom, toxic enough to knock out the water supply in Toledo, Ohio on the western end of the lake.

“Yeah, I am concerned,” said Kathy Wilson. “It is all the same body of water, and what’s going to keep it from moving down here?”

“It can float downstream,” said Mark Gannon. “That’s something we’re just going to have to stay on top of.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he is staying on top of it.

“Right now we have no evidence to believe the toxins are in the water in the Erie County, Chautauqua County area, but we’ll be doing additional tests throughout the summer to confirm that.”

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Erie County’s drinking water will not only be tested in local labs but also sent to the state Wadsworth labs outside of Albany for even more sophisticated testing.

“We’re doing what we can to ensure the water is safe,” said Poloncarz. “It is safe. As of today, as of right now, the tests that I’ve seen, it is safe.”

The crisis in Toledo has touched off a national discussion about the quality of Lake Erie waters. Jill Jedlicka says it should serve as a wake-up call.

“We are at a tipping point in time for Lake Erie and its health,” she said. “It almost died in the 1970s, and we’re on the verge of that again.”

Senator Charles Schumer says the lake must be protected from pollutants that create the thriving environment for giant toxic algae blooms. Farm Bill money addresses that problem, he says, although money still needs to be distributed.

“It helps farmers deal with phosphates that are put into the water, that’s what blue-green algae thrives on.”

While deeper water and swift currents may protect Western New York’s portion of the lake, Steve Wilson of Buffalo still wondered if it wouldn’t be smart to stock up on some bottled water, saying “just in case it does move this way.”

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