City weighs-in on Salem water crisis

Early last week, officials in Salem warned residents under the age of six not to drink the city’s tap water after finding an unhealthy level of toxins in the water supply. A public safety alert was sent out via robo calls and text alerts from Salem to Eugene causing panic in three different counties and triggering price gouging for clean, bottled water.

The city of Cottage Grove released a statement on Friday assuring residents that the city’s tap water was safe to drink, citing its source.

City water is garnered from the Dorena Reservoir, managed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

“Dorena Reservoir has experienced algal blooms in the past,” the statement read. “Some of these blooms have resulted in a recreational health advisory to be issued for the users of the reservoir, due to the presence of toxins being produced by the algae.”

The toxin causing the health alert in Salem and Marion County is known as a cyanotoxin and is created by harmful algal blooms. Boiling tap water increases the danger of the toxin. Governor Kate Brown has issued a state of emergency for Salem, sending in clean water while city officials reportedly knew of the heightened tests for four days before reporting the issue to the public after a May 23 test showed 6.96 parts per billion of the toxin. Children under six and individuals with weakened immune systems should not consume water with more than 0.7 parts per billion. Healthy adults should not consume water with three parts per billion.

According to the statement from the city of Cottage Grove, tests conducted at Row River have sometimes detected the presence of very low levels of cyanotoxins.

“We do not expect that the harmful algal blooms issue will go away but it will continue to be more common so we are pursuing alternatives to prevent toxins in finished drinking water, should the increased levels of cyanotoxins be detected in Row River,” the statement read. “Should toxins be detected in Cottage Grove drinking water at a level that would require a ‘Do Not Drink’ health advisory, the city would work closely with the local and state public health and emergency response agencies as the city of Salem is currently doing, to address the situation and quickly reduce cyanotoxin levels in the tap water.”

The city of Salem lifted the restriction on drinking water on June 2.

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