Scientists make discovery on virus that caused 2014 water crisis

Scientists make discovery on virus that caused 2014 water crisis

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Nearly three years after the Toledo water crisis, scientists have made a discovery about what made the Lake Erie algae bloom so toxic and what this new information could mean for this year's bloom on the lake.

Weather conditions and nutrient runoff from the Maumee River played a major role in the Toledo water crisis but new research says to add a viral infection to the list of causes.

The study published this week states a virus within the harmful algae bloom cells may have made them more dangerous to the Toledo drinking water supply.

The virus caused cells to burst making it much easier for toxins to enter intakes and harder for the treatment plant to filter.

"In the case of the 2014 water crisis it appears that these viruses went into a lytic mode and ruptured the cells releasing the toxins into the water." said Dr. Michael McKay.

BGSU professor Dr. McKay was one of over a dozen scientists who led the study of water samples collected during the water crisis. The algae was very similar to past bloom events except this time a virus was found in the samples.

McKay added, "When a  virus releases a cyanobacteria cell and releases the toxins into the cell. Those toxins are no longer caught in a filtration system, they can enter into the water supply unimpeded."

Without changes made to conditions in Lake Erie, the paper states there is a strong chance that an event like the 2014 Toledo water crisis has a strong chance of happening again in the future.

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