What happens when you can’t test the water, and you suspect it could be contaminated with cyanotoxin/microcystin, even if you get it from a river or well? Our local city water supply was contaminated with cyanotoxin. You can’t use any standard water filter to remove it, and boiling just makes it worse. It’s deadly. But what is it? How did the contamination occur? What to do about it? How do you know if your water is contaminated? These questions recently had to be answered in our community. Someday there might not be a city organization to take care of such issues and you might be using your own private water resources such as a lake, pond, or river. You will be at risk.
Cyanotoxin is produced by microcystin (a type of bacteria in blue-green algae blooms). Do NOT confuse microcystin with microcysts (also shown as micro-cysts), a ball of bacteria or virus living in the water. While the function of microcystin producing cyanotoxin is scary, it is not uncommon. It is seen anywhere water (fresh, salt, or brackish) may flow slow enough, or be stagnant to allow the blue-green algae to bloom. Even rivers have “slow” spots where this can happen. For this reason, it is important to be sure to check if the water is safe before swimming, drinking or cooking with the water. For public water resources, calling the park service should give you the information about water safety.
Even so, you still have to be certain that these nasty little things didn’t find their way into your family or livestock water supply. If you use city water supply, you won’t know because the city is not required to test for it. It is assumed it is not in the city water due to the various processes used for water purification. Our contamination was discovered when a neighbor suspected something was wrong with the water in her home and sent it out for testing. The results came back with horrendous results.
The first notice was hand delivered on a Friday night only to our neighborhood. Then as the rest of the community was tested, eventually the entire city was found to be contaminated. After two weeks of flushing lines and testing and re-testing the water, they were able to come up with a clean water supply. The city had no idea how long we had been exposed to this deadly toxin. Nor does the city know how the contamination happened since it is a closed system. But, if the indications we saw are correct, it was at least six months, but more like a year.
Here are things you need to know to keep your water supply safe:
Symptoms and consequences of contamination are mistakable for other medical issues. They include hay fever symptoms while or after swimming or bathing, liver and kidney failure, and death. If you should survive those things, you have other things looming in your future since cyanotoxin facilitates cancer. It takes at least one month for even low levels of toxin to be removed from you system, assuming that you have enough liver and kidney function left to remove it. If the damage to your organs is not too severe, you can recover from it and the organs should heal.
Laws do not protect you if the water is contaminated because monitoring this toxin in the water supply is not currently required by the E.P.A. nor other water regulatory agencies. However, with several cities’ recent water purification issues from lead, cyanotoxin, chemicals and fecal matter, one can not wait for the law to catch up in time to preserve your health.
There is only one way to remove cyanotoxin from your water supply. Use a long slow sand filter. The bad news is, buying these types of systems are usually expensive and they take up a large area. The output is slow and low water pressure. It is easier and cheaper to make your own system. If you are interested, see this article about how to make your own long slow sand filter. There are precautions you must take if you are going to make your own filtration system. See this article about long slow sand filters.
Take precautions with your water supply, especially if you won’t have the might of a city behind you if contamination occurs. If you are concerned that your current water system won’t be able to remain pure, learn how to make and use a long slow sand filter. Once you have a system in place and working, have the water that comes through it tested. Don’t assume that it works. See this article about using water contaminated with cyanotoxin for non-consumable purposes.