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I-Team: New equipment will make testing Lake Erie’s water quality easier

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CLEVELAND - The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District has significantly improved the ability of officials to test the quality of Lake Erie's water.

The move should allow northern Ohio to know sooner - and with more certainty - if the lake's water is ever contaminated.

The district made the purchase of a "mass spectrometer" in the wake of last summer's water crisis in Toledo - and after the FOX 8 I-Team started asking questions last year about the quality of the equipment used to test the lake's water.

"We saw there was an immediate need," says Julius Ciaccia, the CEO of the sewer district.

The district is responsible for testing the beach water in northeast Ohio, but not its drinking water.

Last summer, the I-Team began to look at how agencies test the lake's water after a crisis left Toledo residents unable to drink their water for an entire weekend.

Officials believed an algae bloom on western Lake Erie had led to an unsafe level of microcystin, a liver toxin, in Toledo's water supply.

That weekend, there were reportedly questions about the test results - including how to measure the quality of the water.

Officials were reportedly worried about "false positive" readings - ones that might show there was a problem even if no problem actually existed.

The I-Team then learned that no front line agency across northern Ohio had a "mass spec" - the best equipment for measuring the quality of the lake's water.

Mark Citriglia, the sewer district's Analytical Services Manager, says the new mass spec is easily five times more accurate at the measurements than the old equipment.

Scientists would run repeated tests on the old equipment to try and ensure that they were getting accurate readings.

Of the readings with the new mass spec, Citriglia says "we have a lot more confidence in our numbers."

The sewer district will be able to allow water districts to use the new equipment in real time if there is ever another crisis like the one that hit Toledo last summer.