Drinking Water Cyanotoxin Risk Communication Toolbox
Purpose of the Toolbox
The Drinking Water Cyanotoxin Risk Communication Toolbox is a ready-to-use, “one-stop-shop” to support public water systems, states and local governments in developing, as they deem appropriate, their own risk communication materials. It includes editable worksheets, press release templates, social media posts, FAQs, factsheets and other quick references. The materials focus on communicating risk and providing background information to the public prior to and during a drinking water cyanotoxin contamination event as well as general information on harmful algal blooms and cyanotoxins.
The toolbox is meant to provide tools and resources for communicating risk to the public about cyanotoxins in drinking water. Determining when to use these materials should be decided at the drinking water system level since each cyanotoxin event varies on a case-by-case basis. Public water systems are encouraged to work with state and local officials to develop cyanotoxin management plans that, among other things, document the process for when and how to communicate with the public about cyanotoxins in drinking water. Public water systems can work with state and local officials to determine at what cyanotoxin levels, in what type of drinking water sample (i.e., raw, finished, distribution system, etc.) and after how many confirmation samples public communication decisions will be informed, noting that local and state requirements may apply. As means of an example, the U.S. EPA’s national drinking water Health Advisory levels for microcystins and cylindrospermopsin are used as cyanotoxin levels that inform public communication decisions in these materials. Templates can be edited to include any information determined appropriate by states and public water systems such as different cyanotoxin levels that inform public communication decisions.
The toolbox includes a variety of resources including: templates, general information documents, and graphics, as described below. Toolbox content materials are available in English on the side toolbar, and materials in Spanish can be found here.
Templates are ready-to-use in Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word formats. Brackets ( [ ] ) are included as prompts to fill in system-specific information. Templates were developed with the public as the audience, with several different communication materials including:
- Press Releases,
- Drinking Water Advisories,
- Social Media and Text Alerts, and
- Public Messaging.
For each of the above materials there are three template options available, one for each of the following scenarios based on the level of toxins occurring and the population impacted:
- Everyone: Toxin levels are greater than the U.S. EPA’s Health Advisory level for everyone, meaning levels are greater than both the Health Advisory levels for infants and young children under the age of six and those for children six years and older through adults;
- Vulnerable Populations: Toxin levels are greater than the U.S. EPA’s Health Advisory level for infants and young children under the age of six, but less than or equal to the Health Advisory level for children six years and older through adults;
- Advisory Lifted: Toxin levels are less than or equal to the U.S. EPA’s Health Advisory level for everyone, meaning levels are less than or equal to Health Advisory levels for infants and young children under the age of six and therefore they are also less than the Health Advisory levels for children six years and older through adults.
These materials were developed to provide basic information about harmful algal blooms and cyanotoxins in drinking water. Below is a summary of the communication tools and their potential uses. Additionally, there is a space at the footer of the pages where states or public water systems using these materials can include their logo (as they deem appropriate).
- Frequently Asked Questions: Public water systems and states can use some or all of the questions and answers to provide information to the public. These materials are useful for addressing common questions about cyanotoxins in drinking water.
- Factsheets: All or parts of these documents can be shared with the public to communicate general information about cyanotoxins, harmful algal blooms and impacts on drinking water.
In addition, a menu of downloadable options for graphics are provided in JPEG format to aid in visually explaining the information provided in the text of the toolbox. Graphics include summary graphics and graphics depicting the three different scenarios discussed above. These graphics can be used on websites, in factsheets and other media, where appropriate.