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Large Algae Bloom Causes Water Emergency in Ohio

Volunteers unload drinking water from a truck outside Waite High School in Toledo, Ohio, August 3, 2014.

Nearly 500,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio have been forced to rely on bottled water after toxic materials were discovered in the city's water supply.

City officials issued a warning Saturday after tests at a water treatment plant found high levels of microcystin, a toxin that causes vomiting, diarrhea and liver problems. Residents have been urged not to use water out of their faucets to drink, cook or give to their pets. People with weakened immune systems have also been urged not to use the water to bathe in.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has declared a state of emergency. Troops with the Ohio National Guard have been dispatched to deliver and distribute bottled water to residents, as many city residents drove more than 100 kilometers just to find and buy bottled water from nearly depleted stores.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said they were waiting for tests being conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on water samples to determine when the water will be safe to use again.

The toxin was caused by large amounts of algae growing in Lake Erie, one of the five so-called "Great Lakes" located along and near the Canadian border in the United States. The algae growths are caused by fertilizer runoff from farms and water treatment plants.

Lake Erie has been plagued by algae blooms dating back to the 1960s. The blooms disappeared in the 1990s and the first decade of this century, but have steadily increased over the past decade.

Last year, a harmful algae bloom forced a similar water ban in a small town located east of Toledo.