Letter: Toledo Water Crisis

Hugh:

I live in Toledo and was part of the recent “water crisis”. From what I understand, a Berkey, Lifestraw, or any kind of water pills cannot get rid of “mitocystin”, which was what was in our water. So, we had plenty of “water”, but no way to make it drinkable. I was wondering if your readers:

  1. agree that these won’t work on mitocystin
  2. have any alternative method of purifying water with this in it. – B.J.

Hugh Replies: This is not something that I have knowingly dealt with, so I had to do a little research to come up with an answer. I would be interested in hearing what our readers who are experts have to say on the issue. WHO has several documents on the issue that come up during a standard Google search on “microcystin”. One, in particular, had much useful information. In short, there are several types of microcystin. It is worth mentioning that the toxin affects the liver, so if you drink the contaminated water, you may not notice symptoms immediately. In fact, you may not notice symptoms for years, but the damage is done.

Most microcystins are produced by decaying bacteria and are best removed before the bacteria cell wall ruptures, making any good water filter work at that stage. Even if the toxins are already released, you need to remove the old cellular material, so some sort of physical filtration is a must. Reverse osmosis and nanofiltration can work, if the membrane is small enough, but powdered, activated charcoal will remove most. The exception being Microcystin LA. As preppers, we probably do not have the water test to determine what the contaminate species is, so the activated charcoal should not be used as the primary filter. Interestingly enough, slow sand filters are the recommended removal method. Chlorination and ozonation are also effective. That tells me that a slow sand filter may be in order for my household, and the standard advice of stocking up on calcium hypochlorite is still the best approach.

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