Akron Water Supply Treatment Plant uses machines and lab analysts to monitor for signs of algae

AKRON, Ohio - The Akron Water Supply Treatment Plant takes a number of steps to guard against high levels of algae infiltrating the drinking supply.

"Algae throughout the nation is becoming a huge concern... You can never let your guard down. We know that. We've learned that," said Jeff Bronowski, the water supply manager of the plant located in Portage County.

Akron distributes water to about 300,000 customers to the city and several other communities, including Stow, Tallmadge, Mogadore and Fairlawn. The plant, which gets water from Lake Rockwell near Kent, pumps out roughly 35 million gallons of water each day.

Bronowski said the the lake has algae blooms at times, but has never experienced the alarming levels that shut down the water supply in Toledo over the weekend.

"We are constantly out on a continuous basis grabbing samples, analyzing samples for algae," he said.

The plant also has 25 real-time analyzer machines to measure the performance of filters in the plant.

"Algae clogs filters. When you clog filters, turbidities start to rise."

As an added precaution, lab analysts frequently check water samples under a microscope. A milliliter of water can show trouble.

"We mix up our sample because what algae normally likes to do is it'll float of it'll settle," said Charles Lacy, a lab analyst.

The analysts search for a variety of potentially toxic forms of algae, including Microcystin, which caused the Toledo trouble.

"We've never seen anything to cause us alarm," said Basil Ramey, a senior lab analyst.

In fact, the Akron plant is celebrating its 100th anniversary and has never faced water restrictions related to an algae bloom.

Still, Bronowski said what happened in Toledo emphasizes the need to be prepared.

"We have an emergency operating plant that specifically puts a response strategy in place on how to deal with the fact that there may be a do not drink or a do not use in the future."

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