Toledo mayor speaks at Chicago drinking water summit

Mayor Collins with Tim Miller
Mayor Collins with Tim Miller

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins spoke at a water summit convened by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the windy city on Wednesday.

The water crisis caused by the algal bloom in Lake Erie in August caught the nation's attention – including the mayor of Chicago. Mayor Emanuel invited Mayor Collins to speak at his summit on drinking water protection after the crisis.

The summit is the annual meeting of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which describes itself as a coalition of mayors and other local officials that works actively with federal, state, and provincial governments to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Collins began by detailing the ordeal for those in attendance.

"There were long hours. There was no sleep," Collins told the group. "That was a nightmare amongst all nightmares."

Collins says his main concern during the crisis was to keep northwest Ohio residents calm and safe.

"My biggest fear that evening – that early morning hour – is 'how do I prevent panic?' because throwing panic into the equation is not going to fix the problem.  It's going to increase the problem," said Collins.

After detailing the headache of a toxic algae bloom which prevented nearly 400,000 people from drinking their water, Collins turned to the head of the United States Environmental Protection agency for help. Collins asked that President Obama declare the Maumee River a "disastrous watershed" and said the city would need the full force of the federal government to deal with toxic algae blooms.

Collins spoke for about 15 minutes in total. After he finished, US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the mayor "a courageous man who had to make a tough call."

Tim Miller is the only Toledo TV reporter in Chicago for the conference. Tune in to WTOL 11 News at noon, 5 and 6 for more, and follow Tim on Facebook and Twitter.

Click here to see our full coverage of Toledo's water crisis.

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