Water scare affects more than 400,000 in Toledo, Ohio

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(CNN) — The line formed outside Walt Churchill’s Market & Pharmacy in Perrysburg, Ohio, at the crack of dawn Saturday, before the business even opened.

Toledo-area residents, desperate for clean water, bought all the bottled water inside, market co-owner Bob Carpenter said.

Then, hearing that a water tank truck full of about 8,000 gallons had set up outside the market, more people descended on the oasis with empty jugs they could fill for a dollar a gallon.

The “water rush” came after two samples from a water treatment plant showed readings for microcystin, a toxin that is released by algae blooms

Local officials are telling people not to use, drink, cook with or even boil any of the water in Toledo. Restaurants were told to close up for the day.

More than 400,000 people — about two-thirds of the Toledo area population — are affected by the water warning. Gov. John Kasich issued a state of emergency for Lucas and Wood counties and other parts of northwest Ohio.

The National Guard is scheduled to set up water stations around town, according to CNN affiliate WTOL.

City officials say the alert is a precaution as they expect more detailed test results by Saturday evening.

“We hope the tests come back and that we are not in the dire strait we fear we might be in,” said Toledo Mayor Michael Collins. “We are erring on the side of caution.”

There are no reports of anyone getting sick from the water, officials said.

Toledo’s drinking water comes from Lake Erie, where a harmful algae bloom that causes microcystin has been growing, according to a city spokeswoman. Ingestion of the toxin can affect the liver and cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, according to health officials.

Water lines form up

City officials said water is on the way from all over the state to the affected area, and families in need will get one free case.

People who lined up at planned water distribution site were told to return when the water arrived.

“I don’t advise you to go to there and wait for it,” Mayor Collins said in a news conference, during which he urged people not to panic, and to let common sense prevail.

He said the city would tell people where to go once the free water arrives.

“I assure you we will have water. There is no one going without water at the end of the day. I guarantee you that,” he said.

Despite the plea, many people remained in line at one distribution center, according to WTOL.

A grocery store called “The Andersons” said it has just received two truckloads of water and is limiting water sales to four cases per customer.

“It’s one of the busiest day I’ve had in my 28 years,” store manager John Kowalski told CNN.

Kroger said all its stores in the Toledo have run out of water. Stores in the Columbus area, more than a two-hour drive away, are close to running out.

More bottled water is on the way to its 15 stores in the affected area, said Kroger spokeswoman Jackie Siekmann.

“As soon as the water shipments are in, they are going out the front door,” she said.

Green leaf lettuce and other produce that is misted by water in Kroger stores will be thrown out as a precaution, Siekmann said.

By Susanna Capelouto and Mark Morgenstein

CNN’s Ryan Sloane and Marisa Marcellino and Donovan Long contributed to this report.

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