December 21, 2018


December 19, 2018
Contact:  Brittney Dulbs, 517.442.5294
   Pam Taylor, 517.270.2419


Adrian, Michigan (Dec. 19, 2018) – DNA test results released today show the presence of cyanobacteria in one of three samples taken from different Adrian homes. Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can produce microcystin, a potent colorless, odorless, toxin that is invisible to the naked eye and cannot be removed by boiling.  Microcystin is responsible for the 2014 Toledo water intake shutdown and was responsible for a do-not-drink advisory for Carroll Township, Ohio in 2013.  Earlier this year, the City of Salem, Oregon, distributed bottled water to citizens after finding cyanobacteria in its municipal water distribution system.  Salem gets its drinking water from its reservoir, Detroit Lake, and has experienced algal blooms for several years, but 2018 was the first time cyanobacteria was found in the drinking water supply.

Scientists don’t know what triggers cyanobacteria to produce the microcystin toxin and can’t predict when it will happen.  Because of concern that microcystin-producing cyanobacteria could have successfully passed through the City’s treatment system and entered the distribution system and colonized at certain locations in the City, some of Adrian’s drinking water customers had their tap water tested for the presence of both cyanobacteria and microcystin DNA.  Testing performed using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method confirmed the presence of the cyanobacteria organism in one of the three samples tested.

Brittney Dulbs, one of the Adrian residents who continues to have problems with her home tap water, said, “This has been going on for far too long.  Based on a map of the addresses of the people who have contacted me, it seems like a pattern is emerging.  We need the City to supply clean, safe water.”

All three samples tested negative for microcystin.  Dr. Tom Prychitko, Director of Helix Biological Laboratory, wrote, “My feeling based on these test results is that the source of tap water in Adrian does have some sort of low level of contamination of Cyanobacteria that may periodically vary so that it may be detectable one week and then not detectable the next.”  More samples have been taken and the results will be released when they are available.

Gail Philbin, Director of the Michigan Sierra Club, said, "The threat to water quality in Michigan has only grown since the drinking water for Toledo and southern Michigan was poisoned in 2014.  Annual algae blooms have increased in size and frequency and location, yet the state has made little progress in addressing their causes.  Given the prevalence of the problem in Michigan, it's important for state and local officials to take the situation in Adrian seriously and work with local residents to identify the scope and source of the cyanobacteria and resolve it before it becomes a public health crisis."

“Ohio requires public water treatment systems to report tests for microcystin which are posted regularly on the Ohio EPA web site.  In addition, Toledo has a ‘Drinking Water Quality Dashboard’ that shows cyanobacteria/microcystin test results that they immediately post on their web site. Adrian’s water quality report for 2017 discloses no test results for microcystin and there are no postings for 2018. Michigan DEQ should require testing and the public posting of the results for microcystin from Adrian and for all water treatment plants where blue-green algae is near drinking water intakes,” stated Sandy Bihn, Lake Erie Waterkeeper.

Bentley Johnson, Partnerships Manager for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, added, "Cyanobacteria is not only a threat to those that rely on Lake Erie for their drinking water — the threat of toxic contamination from harmful algal blooms can be found statewide, including the city of Adrian. We encourage officials to use all the tools at their disposal to investigate these reports in Adrian and make sure that drinking water is safe for residents. We must also work collectively across the state in a bold manner to address the root causes of harmful algal blooms in our Great Lakes and in our inland lakes, rivers, and streams."  
The City of Adrian gets its drinking water from two sources:  Lake Adrian, a reservoir created by damming Wolf Creek, and from groundwater wells.  Wolf Creek is a tributary of the River Raisin that outfalls into Lake Erie.  Lake Adrian has experienced algal blooms over the years, including last summer.  In 2018, the City reported high amounts of microbes that cause taste and odor problems, which can be produced by cyanobacteria when they die.  Despite continued treatment by the City, taste and odor problems continue to this day at several locations scattered throughout the City, long after the end of the bloom.  Pam Taylor, a local environmental activist and member of Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan who has been testing streams in the Raisin watershed for many years and has found high levels of nutrients and bacteria with DNA from livestock manure and human waste, said, “Cyanobacteria and microcystin were found at several spots upstream from Adrian in Wolf Creek in both 2017 and 2018.  While cyanobacteria at low levels is common in the summer, more serious blooms along with increased microcystin levels are happening upstream from Lake Adrian in the Wolf Creek watershed.”  Blissfield and Deerfield, both downstream from Lake Adrian, get their drinking water from the Raisin.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Adrian were contacted about the preliminary results of these tests last Friday, December 14, 2018, and the official report was sent today.