The blue-green algae blooms causing the warning are the same stuff that contaminated the drinking water of about 400,000 people in the Toledo area earlier this month. (Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP)
Some residents of a small Canadian island were warned not to drink their well water because of potentially toxic algae in Lake Erie that earlier this month contaminated the drinking water of about 400,000 people around Toledo.
While Pelee Islandís municipal water system was still safe to use, those who have private wells that draw water from the lake were told Tuesday not to bathe or cook with their water.
The island, which has about 300 year-round residents, also has many vacation cottages that rely on private wells for water.
The warning was issued by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in Windsor, Ontario, after tests of lake water around the island showed elevated levels of microcystins, a toxin that can kill animals and sicken people, said Stephanie Pongracz, manager in the health inspection department.
None of the private wells had been tested for the toxins, but the health agency said the algae could affect the water quality.
Residents and visitors also were told not to swim at beaches on the island, which is about 50 miles east of Toledo and situated along the U.S.-Canadian border.
Blooms of blue-green algae have been on the rise in western Lake Erie for more than a decade and have become a threat to not only drinking water but also fish and tourism.
The algae growth is fed by phosphorus mainly from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants, leaving behind dangerous toxins.
Just over three weeks ago, people in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan who get their tap water from Toledo were told for more than two days not to drink the water or use it to cook or brush their teeth.