Review Category : National News

What Caused Toledo’s Water Contamination?

Stock photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TOLEDO, Ohio) — Massive algal blooms like the one that has turned the waters of Lake Erie florescent green and contaminated the drinking water of Toledo, Ohio, are caused when certain kinds of algae grow in response to changes in chemicals in the water, often from fertilizer components.

Algae in water is typically non-toxic and invisible to the human eye, but if allowed to accumulate to levels where it is visibly thick it can become toxic.

At toxic levels, algae can destroy marine ecosystems by killing animals and depleting the water’s oxygen. Scientists have also linked toxic algae to human illnesses around the world, including North America, according to the CDC.

Blooms are commonly made by cyanobacteria, which form in warm and still bodies of water. These blooms usually occur in late summer and early fall, and can happen in fresh, brackish or salt water, according to the CDC.

Cyanobacteria are also called blue-green algae, after the color of their algal blooms.

Algal blooms sometimes turn oceans red, a phenomena known as red tide. Red tide is common along the shorelines of Texas and Florida, according to the CDC.

Like cyanobacteria, red tide is also toxic. It can kill fish and marine birds, and can have harmful effects on people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The effects of red tide on human health is still being tested by government agencies.

Although algal blooms can infiltrate drinking water, scientists are still unclear about the direct health risks algae-contaminated drinking water can pose to people.

The Environmental Protection Agency has listed harmful algal blooms on a priority list for investigation.

But a joint investigation conducted by ABC News and the Food and Environment Reporting Network found more than 100 cases of reported illness after people came in contact with algal blooms in lakes across America.

And in 2008 a massive algal bloom in Beijing almost hampered the 2008 Olympic games, when a giant green mass of algae covered a lake that was to be used for sailing events. Clean up crews and volunteers had to haul the tangled algae to shore.

This week hundreds of thousands of residents in Toledo were left scrambling to get clean water after their drinking water was deemed unsafe due to the massive algal bloom.

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Ohio Residents Remain Under Do-Not-Drink Advisory

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TOLEDO, Ohio) — Officials in Toledo are awaiting lab results before determining whether the city’s water is safe for residents to use.

On Saturday, a toxin known as microcystin was found in a samples from the water supply, which is used in a number of cities and towns in the area, including a small number of utility customers in Michigan. Experts believe the toxin is the result of an algae bloom on the southern shores of Lake Erie.

Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency as about 400,000 residents were told not to consume or boil the water. Scientists have been adding carbon to the water supply to neutralize the toxins, but tests to determine whether the were not expected to be returned until later Sunday at the earliest. Mayor Michael Collins said that samples had been sent to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Cincinnati office and a state laboratory in Columbus.

There was no time frame given for when the test results could be made public, and the affected customers remain under a do not drink advisory.

The situation in Toledo actually prompted officials in Chicago to order additional tests of their water supply. Results of those tests will be made public in the upcoming days. Because Chicago has a separate water supply from Toledo, the tests were done out of an abundance of caution. Shannon Breymaier, Deputy Communications Director for the city of Chicago says that the city’s water “completely is safe.”

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Police Seek Mother After 2-Year-Old Found Dead, 13-Year-Old Injured

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CANNON BEACH, Ore.) — Police are searching for a woman after her two-year-old daughter was found killed and her 13-year-old daughter seriously injured in a hotel room in Cannon Beach, Ore.

Police are looking for Jessica Smith, 40, from Goldendale, Wash. According to ABC News affiliate KATU-TV in Portland, Ore., police have listed Smith as a person of interest in the homicide but not as a suspect.

Smith checked into the Surfsand Hotel on July 30 in Cannon Beach, which is about three hours from her home in Goldendale, police said. One day later a housekeeper at the hotel found Smith’s seriously injured 12-year-old daughter and the body of the 2-year-old.

The homicide is the first in at least 50 years for the seaside resort town, according to KATU-TV.

The 13-year-old had multiple cuts and stab wounds, according to police, and was flown to a hospital in Portland, where she was listed in stable condition following surgery.

At a press conference Saturday, Cannon Beach Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn described the horrific scene at the hotel room.

“I saw a large amount of blood,” Schermerhorn told reporters. He later clarified that the blood appeared to be from the older child.

Schermerhorn added that the toddler was not cut or stabbed, according to KATU-TV. The suspected cause of death has not been released.

The father of the two children, Greg Smith, is not a suspect in the case and has been cooperating with police, officials said.

According to court records obtained by KATU-TV, the couple had recently filed for divorce and Jessica Smith had been denied her request for a restraining order against Greg Smith in July.

Smith was last seen driving a gold 2007 Chevy suburban. Calls to a phone listed to Greg Smith were not immediately answered.

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Gov. Brown Declares State of Emergency As Wildfires Rage On

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Gov. Edmund “Jerry” Brown declared a state of emergency in California on Saturday caused by a number of wildfires that have burned thousands of acres, destroyed residences and damaged infrastructure.

The first of the fires began on July 25 in El Dorado and Amador counties, and as of Aug. 1, there were 17 fires burning across the state. Brown noted in his proclamation of a state of emergency that one of the fires had crossed over the border from the state of Oregon.

The state has also been suffering from a drought which prompted a previous declaration of a state of emergency by Brown in January, which increases the risk of wildfires and makes each fire more likely to spread.

Brown is calling on the California National Guard to mobilize in order to support disaster response and relief efforts across the Golden State.

Earlier on Saturday, the state of California had placed two more C-130 military planes equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems on active duty to fight the fires. Two of the planes had previously been made active. The planes feature a special tank inside the cargo hold that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or flame retardant in approximately five seconds.

The four C-130 planes are half of the state’s eight available MAFFS-equipped C-130 planes, and are supporting 15 civilian planes battling the blazes.

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Repairs, Recovery Underway at UCLA After Water Main Break

ABC7 Los Angeles(LOS ANGELES) — Gene Block, Chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles announced Friday that the school has begun work to recover from a broken water main that caused flooding on the campus earlier this week.

The flooding caused damage in buildings, underground parking garages and athletic facilities — including the school’s famous basketball area, Pauley Pavilion, which had undergone more than $100 million in renovations in 2012. City Councilman Paul Koretz said on Tuesday that the emergency couldn’t have come at a worse time, while much of the state is suffering from a drought.

Most undamaged vehicles have been moved to an outdoor parking lot where owners can claim them. The removal of damaged vehicles continues over the weekend.

Block also announced that the repairs necessary to make Pauley Pavilion usable will be completed in advance of the fall basketball season.

“We will continue to look for ways to help our students, staff and faculty who have been affected by this incident,” Block said.

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Police: Texas Woman Lied About Home Invasion, Killed Her Husband

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON, Texas) — A Texas woman found on Christmas Eve tied up inside her home along with her husband has been charged with his murder.

Sandra Melgar, 52, of Houston, was charged with murdering her husband of 32 years, Jaime Melgar, in 2012.

Police suspect that Melgar stabbed her husband with a knife, according to court documents.

Relatives who arrived at the couple’s home that night to celebrate their anniversary found Melgar and her husband locked in separate closets.

“Ms. Melgar says they were in the bathroom together, her and her husband, and at some time she blacked out and the next thing she remembers is waking up in the closet tied up,” Sergeant Robert Spurgeon of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said.

Melgar’s husband was found with stab wounds, according to police.

Police say they were suspicious of Melgar’s story after discovering that nothing had been taken from the home, although it is still unclear what led authorities to arrest and charge Melgar.

“It just seemed like something was really strange with how it all came down, them being tied up and just one person being killed,” said Randy Parman, a neighbor.

Members of the Harris County community said they feel more at ease knowing a home burglar might never have been at-large.

“It’s a relief to know it’s not random, not a home invasion,” Jane Yang, a neighbor, said.

Melgar is due in court on August 14.

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Crews Continue Battling Carlton Complex Fire in Washington, New Blaze Started

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OKANOGAN, Wash.) — Firefighters made progress in battling Washington state’s Carlton Complex Fire overnight Friday into Saturday, despite a new fire being sparked west of Highway 20.

A Monday morning update noted that fire crews now have the fires 81 percent contained, though the fire now covers about 252,761 acres. The containment figure is up from 71 percent on Friday night.

Due to the new fire activity south of Winthrop, Washington, addition evacuations were put into place. All residents from Twin Lakes Road to Wolf Creek Road and at the Sun Mountain Resort were placed under level three evacuations.

Over 3,000 fire personnel continue to battle the flames.

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Toledo, Ohio Under ‘Do Not Drink’ Water Advisory

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TOLEDO, Ohio) — The city of Toledo is warning its residents, and many residents in the area, not to drink or boil water from the tap after samples from the city’s water treatment plant showed high toxin levels.

In an urgent notice posted to the city’s Facebook account, officials say that water from the tap should not be consumed or boiled, as boiling water could make the situation worse. The water could be dangerous to both humans and pets.

The “do not drink” notice applies to all customers of Toledo Water — including all of Lucas County and some parts of Michigan.

The toxins appear to have been cause by a harmful algal bloom. Consuming the toxins could cause abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness or dizziness. Anyone who believes they might have been exposed is urged to seem medical attention.

Alternative water should be used for all consumption, though officials believe the water is safe for bathing.

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Toledo, Ohio Under ‘Do Not Drink’ Water Advisory

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TOLEDO, Ohio) — The city of Toledo is warning its residents, and many residents in the area, not to drink or boil water from the tap after samples from the city’s water treatment plant showed high toxin levels.

In an urgent notice posted to the city’s Facebook account, officials say that water from the tap should not be consumed or boiled, as boiling water could make the situation worse. The water could be dangerous to both humans and pets.

The “do not drink” notice applies to all customers of Toledo Water — including all of Lucas County and some parts of Michigan.

The toxins appear to have been cause by a harmful algal bloom. Consuming the toxins could cause abnormal liver function, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, numbness or dizziness. Anyone who believes they might have been exposed is urged to seem medical attention.

Alternative water should be used for all consumption, though officials believe the water is safe for bathing.

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Funeral for Murdered Teen April Millsap Held as Police Search for Killer

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — About 100 people Friday attended the funeral for April Millsap, the teenage girl murdered in Michigan on July 24 while walking her dog.

The funeral took place at around the same time that a father and son were arraigned for growing marijuana inside a house that the Michigan State Police and FBI searched as part of the ongoing investigation into Millsap’s murder, according to the FBI and Michigan State Police.

James Bernard VanCallis, a 66-year-old registered sex offender, and his 32-year-old son, James Donald VanCallis, both had bail set at $75,000, according to state police.

Police searched the VanCallis home on Wednesday as part of the murder investigation but Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Shaw made it clear that the arrests were separate from the homicide investigation. No arrests have been made in connection to Millsap’s murder.

The younger VanCallis began to cry during the arraignment and his father pleaded to be allowed to go home on account of his pets.

“I love my dogs. I just wanna go home to my dogs. I didn’t do nothing,” VanCallis Sr said according to WXYZ.

VanCallis Jr. has a medical marijuana license and is allowed to have 36 plants in his home, but during the search of Goodell, Michigan house, investigators found 52 plants inside, according to WXYZ.

Both men have criminal records: VanCallis Jr. was convicted of breaking and entering in 2005 and failing to pay child support. His father is a tier-3 registered sex offender and was convicted on two counts of criminal sexual misconduct, both in 1995. The second-degree charge related to a person under the age of 13 and the fourth-degree charge involved a victim between the ages of 13 and 16 years old, according to the Michigan sex offender registry.

Neither of the men have a lawyer, WXYZ reported, so the judge entered a not guilty pleas for both.

The Michigan State Police and the FBI are continuing to search for leads in Millsap’s murder. The girl, who was walking her dog on a hiking path, was killed and left in a drainage ditch, where joggers found her body. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Police stopped all traffic going in and out of Millsap’s hometown of Armadad for three hours on Thursday evening in a hunt for leads. Shaw explained that they chose that time because it is the exact time frame when the 14-year-old was killed a week earlier.

“Humans are creatures of habit so we were hoping to speak to some of the same people who had been there when April disappeared,” Shaw told ABC.

He said that the efforts paid off and investigators got “five to eight good tips that we didn’t have before from people who weren’t sure if they should call us or not.”

WXYZ reported that police were seen searching and dredging Omo Lake on Friday, which is near the area where the victim’s phone was found.

Police already issued search warrants for phone records- though they would not specify which phone records- as part of the investigation.

Early reports about Millsap’s murder included claims from a relative that she had texted her boyfriend on July 24 saying “OMG. … I think I’m being kidnapped.” But Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Shaw told ABC News that the message was phrased differently and may not have come from April herself.

Police still have no formal suspects in the case.

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