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George Diepenbrock
KU News Service
785-864-8853

Media advisory: Expert available to discuss response to Toledo tap water ban

Tue, 08/05/2014

LAWRENCE — Residents of Toledo, Ohio's fourth-largest city, spent the weekend under a water advisory due to toxins in the city's water supply.

City officials lifted the advisory Monday morning after testing revealed the toxin levels created by levels of algae in Lake Erie were safe. The advisory had created inconvenience for about a half-million people — residents and businesses in the area. Several businesses were forced to close, and supplies of bottled water ran short. Gov. John Kasich also deployed members of the Ohio National Guard to three counties to deliver water-purification systems, pallets of bottled water and meals.

A University of Kansas researcher is available to talk about issues related to the emergency response in Toledo.

Holly T. Goerdel, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, can speak about how local governments and communities address emergencies like the water shortage emergency in Toledo. Goerdel studies issues related to public management and public policy. She was co-author of a 2013 research article, "Social Capital and Emergency Management Planning: A Test of Community Context Effects on Formal and Informal Collaboration," in the American Review of Public Administration.

Goerdel and fellow researchers, including KU faculty members Bonnie Johnson and John Pierce, concluded that U.S. counties with formal governmental networks embedded within strong, resilient community contexts of non-government citizen groups were better equipped for crisis management than counties whose community organizations were more isolated or interacted less with one another.

She said the tap water ban in Toledo demonstrates how natural resource restrictions can trigger an emergency response from municipalities and community partners. In Ohio this included different levels of government working together with local and regional businesses in addition to neighbors, strangers and visitors pitching in to help each other.

"What is fascinating from reports coming out of the Toledo experience is the coupling of informal collaboration among members of the community along with the coordinated actions from public, nonprofit and for-profit organizations," Goerdel said. "Something we know from research is that a mix of formal and informal collaboration increases the potential for communities to withstand stresses and crises and to respond creatively, quickly and flexibly during emergencies."

To arrange an interview with Goerdel, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or gdiepenbrock@ku.edu.



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