While not finding itself blessed to be on a Great Lake, the building of dams to create three large reservoirs was good enough to grant water power to Columbus. Control of access to that source granted real power to the state capital, power used for many years to negotiate Columbus's ability to expand and control its borders with its neighbors.
Toledo was not immune to the lure of 'water power' in its past, often manipulating its neighbors out of their own access through a combination of smiling persuasiveness and aggressive arm twisting that such a need was unnecessary. The few pennies more that such communities paid to serve Toledo's water power was justified, since the cost freed them of construction and maintenance of infrastructure that was Toledo's burden to bear.
And when only a few years ago the Glass City told interested parties planning the potential location of an inter modal facility in the region to plan where they would; but it would be the city itself, with its ability to grant or deny access to water for any such project, which would in the end decide; that was just the exercise of that power.
Like the child who for years has enjoyed showing off the sharpened blade of the family heirloom, occasionally even removing it from its oil-wrapped rags and raising it in a feigned threatening manner. It's something quite again when the threat becomes real, and the fear more than merely something to scare the children with.
Or was it?
It seems that some of the unreasoning panic over the Algae bloom and the toxin from dying microcystin that occurred may have been more of a 'Chicken Little Episode' than first portrayed. As reported on by Maggie Thurber in Ohio Watchdog.org, the levels of the toxin in the water supply were such that World Health Organization guidelines said that the average person could consume two liters of it for a lifetime without any threat to health. So why the panic? Because it was the WATER DEPARTMENT!
Now back when I first moved to Toledo, the Water Department had a reputation for being a leper colony of municipal mismanagement. Here the dead and dying politically; well-connected, but less successful city employees 'took a window seat' (were left sitting at a chair doing nothing but looking out a window) until they could retire or the world lost interest in them.
This is not to say that the department deserved no respect, but that it received little or none not just from citizens, but from the city. It was traditionally and equally disrespected in the way of budget as well. Maintaining infrastructure isn't sexy after all, and few politicians find traction in trying to drum up a few votes by attempting to fix a few pipes that no one will ever see when there's a dog park or a swimming pool that can be opened.
Mostly however, Water Departments are there so that politicians can do what politicians do. Those that like to spend money to no real purpose for example, use them for reasons to do so. Hence City councilperson Lindsay Webb would like to spend $175,000 that the city doesn't have on a study it doesn't need.
The Mayor however, would like to take it further, make the city's history of 'out of sight, out of mind' maintenance where the water and sewer systems into a policy for consideration by the state and feds as a 'quality of life issue'. This is partly because clean drinking water absolutely is in fact a 'quality of life issue', but mostly because making it so shares the blame for its state of deterioration, likewise shares the responsibility for its long-term fix, and could mean millions of assistance from higher levels of government to the city.
Best of all however, the pitiable cries of panic provide cover for those who've long ignored the actual problem and gives voice to those seeking 'unusual', scientifically impossible, or mindbogglingly bigoted solutions. Stop farmers from fertilizing fields is one we hear often enough, though EPA regulations have reduced much of the blamed runoff. My personal favorite however comes from the mewing fringe, hoping to block the flow of the Great Lakes themselves to prevent upstream pollution from reaching the Glass City. (I keep waiting for a voices to break out in a stout chorus of South Park's "Blame Canada".)
Strange to consider that pity may now have replaced what was once the fear of a source of Toledo's power and envy. One cannot help but think of the “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as it foretold of, “Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink ...”