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Rising costs to keep Toledo's drinking water safe might merit rate increase, director says


TOLEDO, Ohio — The rising cost of keeping Toledo's drinking water free from toxins in Lake Erie and other contaminants in the water might force the city to increase water rates again.

An additional $3 million is needed on top of the $6 million already spent on chemicals to treat the water, said Ed Moore, Toledo's public utilities director.

"I do not think this is a sustainable practice," Moore told City Council members. "If we are going to continue down this path, we are going to have to look at our rate structure."

It was just over a year ago that toxins produced by algae in the lake contaminated the water supply for 400,000 people in the Toledo area and southeastern Michigan.

The city so far has avoided a repeat and has stepped up its treatment and testing of the water. But another big problem this year was that large ice flows last spring churned up sediments in the Maumee River, which flows into the lake near Toledo's drinking water intake, The Blade ( ) reported.

Heavy rains in June also caused large sewage overflows that put algae-feeding contaminants in the river.

More than 293 million gallons of untreated sewage was dumped into the river and other streams during a storm June 27. The next day, 50 million gallons went into waterways.

Moore estimated it could cost an additional $7.5 million to treat the drinking water next year.

"We could blow through that," he said. "We are at the mercy of Mother Nature."

Water plant manager Andy McClure said the city is using roughly four times the amount of chemicals that it did just five years ago to treat the water.

Toledo's water rates have been increasing since 2011 and will continue to see annual increases through 2018 to pay for upgrades at the water treatment plant.

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