02:27 - Source: CNN
Toledo mayor: 'Our water is safe'

Story highlights

NEW: "The families can return to normal life," Toledo mayor says of water ban

Tests showed high levels of toxins in two Toledo neighborhoods

Microcystin, a toxin caused by algae blooms, found in the water system

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CNN  — 

A tap water ban affecting hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio was lifted Monday after tests in affected neighborhoods returned “nondetectable” levels of a algae-related toxin, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said.

“Our water is safe,” Collins said. “The families can return to normal life.”

Residents and businesses that did not use their water at all – not even for showering or washing hands, both of which were allowed under the ban – will need to run their water first to help flush their systems, Collins said, but “if you’ve been using water all along, just go on with life.”

Collins said the city would provide details later Monday about flushing systems.

Residents of Ohio’s fourth-largest city were told to avoid using their tap water all weekend after the state and federal Environmental Protection Agency showed high toxin levels in the East Toledo and Point Place neighborhoods, Collins said earlier Monday.

Instead of isolating the two neighborhoods, Collins kept the ban on drinking or using tap water in the entire city until additional retests were completed. He declined to provide specifics on the names of neighborhoods in question and how high the toxin levels were.

As many as 400,000 people were told not to consume, cook with or even boil the tap water, after a toxin called microcystin was found in the water supply late Friday. Collins told reporters the advisories will remain in effect until at least Sunday evening.

Toledo’s drinking water comes from Lake Erie, where a harmful algae bloom that causes microcystin has been growing, according to a city spokeswoman.

Several locations around the city have been designated as distribution centers for potable water, where members of the Ohio National Guard, fire officials and other first responders are giving out safe water.

About 350 Ohio National Guardsmen have been activated by the governor, according to a U.S. Defense Department official, adding that they have set up three Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit sites at two high schools and a police facility. The guardsmen have also delivered ready-to-eat meals, the official said.

Lining up for water

About two-thirds of the Toledo area population is affected by the water warning. Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued a state of emergency for Fulton, Lucas and Wood counties. The potential contamination also affects four municipalities in Michigan, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported.

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

When certain conditions are present, such as high nutrient or light levels, algae can reproduce rapidly, forming a dense population known as a “bloom,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Testing is crucial because NOAA says it can’t determine just from images whether blooms are toxic.

Ingestion of the toxin can affect the liver and cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and even acute liver failure, according to NOAA. But the Ohio state emergency management agency said it is safe for adults to shower and for everyone to wash their hands.

CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin, David Shortell, Ryan Sloane, Barbara Starr, Marisa Marcellino, Donovan Long and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.