Residents of a large swath of northwestern Ohio were bracing Saturday to go without drinkable water after a dangerous toxin was discovered in an area water treatment plant.
Hours after news of the contamination surfaced, Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency for Lucas, Wood and Fulton counties and deployed the National Guard to get water to the area.
News of the contaminated water touched off a shopping frenzy at area stores for bottled water and bags of ice. Shelves were emptied of bottles and other water supplies, as residents prepared for the worst.
"First and foremost, residents must remain calm," Toledo Mayor Michael Collins said at a morning press conference.
Toledo officials issued the warning early Saturday after tests at the city's Collins Park Water Treatment Plant showed two sample readings for microcystin above the standard for consumption. The plant provides treatment services to an area of approximately 400,000 people across 100 square miles, according toThe Toledo Blade.
Officials said the water is not for drinking or cooking but healthy adults could still use the water for bathing. They warned children not to bathe or swim in it, as they might drink the water accidentally. Residents were warned not to boil the water because it will only increase the toxin's concentration. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and upset stomach.
In a press release, the city of Toledo said the toxins likely came from harmful algal blooms in nearby Lake Erie.
"These organisms are capable of producing a number of toxins that may pose a risk to human and animal health," the release said.
Area zoos and restaurants closed, and the University of Toledo announced it will be closed Saturday and all non-health-care functions canceled. Toledo Lucas-County Public Libraries also announced closings.
"We're testing the water. We'll have updated test results later this afternoon," Lisa Ward, Collin's spokesperson, told the Toledo Free Press. "We are currently working to restore water supplies and working on a different water distribution."
Meanwhile, other municipalities were making their own arrangements. Luna Pier, Mich., officials were making plans to funnel water from Monroe Township, according to the Free Press. Fire trucks will pick up the water and residents will be able to fill water bottles after noon Saturday.
Contributing: Associated Press