Recap of NWWSD response to Toledo water emergency

Northwestern Water & Sewer District took a number of actions during the recent Toledo water emergency to protect and assist our roughly 7,000 affected customers.  When the District’s operations staff first received notice of the water alert at 4:00 AM Saturday morning, they followed standard operating procedures to close the connections with Toledo’s water system.  This isolated Northwestern’s water system to protect it from possible additional contamination with the microcystin toxin from Toledo’s system.  The District also notified Wood County’s EMA (Emergency Management Agency) of the situation, and helped EMA establish its emergency command center at NWWSD’s facility.

Additionally, the District immediately began making arrangements to establish alternate sources of safe water for Wood County residents.  Before dawn on Saturday morning, District staff had contacted bottled water suppliers as far away as Napoleon, Columbus, and Monticello, Indiana to secure a supply of bottled water.  Staff worked with D&K Transport of Bowling Green to begin moving the water to the District’s facility.  The first shipment arrived in Wood County by mid-morning Saturday.  In all, the District took delivery of six semi-trucks full of bottled water totaling over 28,000 gallons by the end of the crisis. 

By mid-morning on Saturday, the District had also converted two of its WaterShed purified water vending units to no-charge operation to provide free safe water to area residents.  The water for those units is supplied by the City of Bowling Green, whose water system was unaffected by the algae bloom.  The advanced filtration systems on the two WaterShed units were also deactivated to provide high-volume dispensing.  A third unit, operated off of a well, required the filtering system to be maintained, but that unit was also converted to no-charge service. 

The District also worked with other jurisdictions in the area to identify and establish additional safe water distribution points.  Northwood and Lake Township established distribution points using water from the Oregon water system, and Rossford and Perrysburg operated distribution points using the supplies of bottled water purchased by Northwestern Water & Sewer District.  Sunday morning, the District set up an additional safe water distribution point at Perrysburg High School.  This distribution point provided area residents with access to unaffected Bowling Green tap water. 

Throughout the crisis, the District provided space and logistical support for Wood County’s Emergency Management Agency staff.  The District hosted EMA’s daily meetings of local officials from the eight affected jurisdictions, and provided space for the Wood County EMA’s conference calls with state emergency agencies to coordinate responses to the crisis.  EMA’s press releases were hosted on the Water & Sewer District’s website, and the District sent a number of reverse-911 emergency notification phone calls providing information to affected residents.  In all, the District sent nearly 10,000 emergency notifications to affected residents during the crisis.

The District also used its website and social media presence to provide customers with timely updates and detailed information.  One of the biggest sources of confusion for Wood County residents was determining whether they were affected by Toledo’s water emergency.  Roughly 7,000 Wood County customers receive water from the Toledo system, but many more do not.  Parts of Northwood, for instance, receive water from Toledo, but other parts of Northwood get water from the City of Oregon, whose system was unaffected.  Most residents in the southern part of the county receive water from the Bowling Green water treatment plant.  By mid-day on Saturday, the District had posted an online web map to assist residents in determining whether they were affected by the water alert.  By the end of the crisis, the District had added the county’s safe water distribution points to the map as well.  During the crisis, traffic to the District’s website had spiked to nearly 20,000 pageviews per day, as compared with an average day’s total of 400 to 500 pageviews. 

Behind the scenes, the District began preliminary engineering design work on an emergency connection between the Bowling Green and Perrysburg water systems.  Had the crisis continued for an extended period, the District could have installed a temporary connection to provide portions of the City of Perrysburg with safe, potable water from the Bowling Green treatment plant.


Updated August 5, 2014