August 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Toledo water ban prompts call for Great Lakes meeting on water quality

After a recent water contamination scare in Toledo, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called for mayors in the Great Lakes region to discuss water quality.

“Access to clean drinking water is something that all residents expect when they turn on the tap,” Emanuel said in a statement this week. “The crisis in Toledo is a stark reminder that our work to protect this critical resource is never done. By convening the leaders of the municipalities that depend on this fresh water supply, we can most effectively discuss the strategies necessary to protect this vital water source for years to come.”

A three-day water ban, which was lifted Monday, affected parts of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan because of harmful algae bloom buildup in Lake Erie. About 400,000 residents were affected in Toledo and 30,000 in the Monroe area, which is tied to the Toledo water system.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said Wednesday he supports the idea of a meeting.

“I think it’s absolutely critical that the mayors who are on the Great Lakes, which is 20 percent of the fresh water supply of the planet, come together and address this issue,” Collins said. “For far too long, this problem has been sidelined by Washington and if this country is to have a future, that future will be dependent on that vast body of water known as the Great Lakes.”

Collins said he would also include Canada in the discussion.

Emanuel’s administration said it has already begun reaching out to mayors in the Great Lakes region for a meeting within the next few weeks. The co-host for the summit will be the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an organization working to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

“The time for action is now,” Mayor John Dickert of Racine, Wisconsin, said in a statement. Dickert is the chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

“The Cities Initiative must work collaboratively with all levels of government to ensure no other city faces a similar crisis with their drinking water,” he said. “Water is vital and we need to act now to prevent this from happening again.”

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