Was the city's effort to notify public of water danger adequate?

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Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins was asked several questions about how the city chose to notify residents of the toxic water at a press conference Tuesday. Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins was asked several questions about how the city chose to notify residents of the toxic water at a press conference Tuesday.
TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Many have voiced frustration with the way the city notified Toledo residents and others who use the city's water that the water contained a toxic chemical and was unsafe to drink.

Nearly half a million people woke up to find the water undrinkable Saturday, but many have told us they did not find out until after they had already used the contaminated water.

"There wasn't any other way to do it.  As soon as we - and I was through this at 3 o'clock in the morning, I was through it during the night, I monitored it, the whole thing and when the decision was made we put that information out immediately. Do not drink that water," Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said at a press conference Tuesday.

The city found out about the around midnight Friday. Emails alerting the media to the advisory went out at 1:20 a.m. Saturday. The city's Facebook page was updated about and hour later. About 90 minutes after that, the county sent out an emergency text message to those signed up through its system.

Several other cities were affected by the toxic water, though. Some of them were even outside of Lucas County. If they mayors of those cities were not on Facebook early on Saturday morning, they likely did not know about the toxic water. So why did the city not contact them?

"We tried to do everything we could.  We communicated.... No we didn't call the mayors at 3 o'clock in the morning and tell 'em," Collins said when pressed on the issue Tuesday.

What about using the outdoor warning sirens, which alert residents to a tornado, to let people know something was wrong.

"I've heard all kinds of plans.  'We should have used the sirens.'  That's emergency management. 'You should have called'.  Who do we call at 3 o'clock in the morning?" Collins said of that idea.

Lucas County Emergency Management Agency Director Pat Moomey says those sirens would never be used for something like this.

"No, I don't think we would ever use that because we would have created more panic in the middle of the night that there was possible tornadoes. Those are used for tornado warning systems, weather warning systems," said Moomey.

Someone else suggested the county's reverse 911 system, which dials home and cell numbers with a pre-recorded message about the emergency.

Moomey says the county does have the capability to call all county residents, but opted to use the text message system instead. She says that system is faster, even though residents have to sign up in advance to receive those texts.


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Moomey says the Lucas County EMA does not have a specific plan in place to deal with a water contamination crisis.

"Unfortunately you can't plan for every event that occurs. So you plan for the ones that you've seen in the past and this was definitely a curve ball that was thrown at us. I think it was handled very well by everyone who responded to the EOC," said Moomey.

"This was, unfortunately, a learning experience.  Your first time through an experience, is it gonna be perfect?" Collins asked.

So far the water crisis has led to the development of a uniform testing standard for microcystin. It is our hope that it will also lead to a new procedure for spreading the word about the danger. WTOL 11 will keep asking questions about this, and let you know the answers.

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