Marion County

National Guard brings water tanks to Marion County

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) -- Based on test results received Thursday, the Vulnerable Population Water Advisory is in effect until further notice, Salem city officials said.

Officials said tap water is safe for children over the age of 6 and healthy adults. People with compromised immune systems, liver conditions or are receiving dialysis, pregnant or nursing mothers, pets and other sensitive populations should follow the advisory.

What happens if you drink the water?

Residents should use bottled water for drinking, making infant formula, making ice and preparing food and beverages. Everyone else can drink the water.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Salem City Manager Steve Powers emphasized that, "Salem's water is safe to drink for most of the population."

Do Not Boil the tap water. Boiling the water will not destroy cyanotoxins and may increase the toxin levels. 

City of Salem communications manager Kenny Larson said officials waited several days to tell the public about the toxins because they consulted with the Oregon Health Authority and were advised to wait.

He said they understand that people are upset with how it's been handled.

"We understand and we're doing everything we can to correct that," Larson said. "We are testing as much as we can and as fast as we can and hopefully Mother Nature starts playing ball with us."

He said right now, they're focusing on testing and getting clean water to residents as fast as possible.

"We are continually testing, we continue to receive more test results," Larson said. "We will publish those as soon as we possibly can."

Water quality supervisor Lacey Goeres-Priest said samples from Sunday, Monday and Tuesday showed levels of the toxin that are within the guidelines for the vulnerable population, but if further testing shows an increase, they will adjust the advisory.

"We are not at that point," she said. 

They are now taking samples from four locations instead of the usual two. The advisory won't be lifted until samples from two days in a row are clear.

Officials couldn't say whether the numbers seem to be going up or down.

Shortly after the City of Salem's announcement, Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency. This allows officials to use state resources like the Oregon National Guard and others if the need arises. 

Brown said free and clean water would be available "soon" in Salem and Stayton and directed the Oregon Military Department to provide additional clean water supplies to the affected communities.

Starting Thursday afternoon, ODM will deploy 10 water stations with clean water at five locations throughout Salem and Stayton.

The Oregon National Guard set up five 2,000-gallon water tanks, or "hippos," Thursday. 

  • Wallace Marine Park, 200 Glen Creek Rd. NW, Salem
  • Oregon State Fairgrounds, 2330 17th St. NE, Salem
  • Bush’s Pasture Park, Mission St. entrance, 600 Mission St. SE, Salem
  • Woodmansee Park, 4629 Sunnyside Rd. SE, Salem 
  • Chemeketa Community College, Brown Parking Lot, 4000 Lancaster Drive NE, Salem
  • AMF Firebird Lanes, 4303 Center Street NE, Salem
  • Former Chevrolet Dealership, 5325 Denver Street, Turner 

Sites will be open around the clock, but there is a 5-gallon limit per vehicle.

As soon as word got around that tanks would be coming, lines formed at the Salem Fairgrounds. The line grew to at least 50 cars long as Portland Water Bureau crews helped the Salem teams get the equipment in place.

Water didn't start flowing until closer to 8 p.m. after plans to clean and fill a giant bag hooked up to several spigots was scrapped in favor of filling containers straight out of the truck. 

Kids and pets were a big reason many people lined up to get water, including Nadine Hurtado, who needed water for her husband's service dog. 

Marion County Emergency manager Ed Flick also said the Oregon Food Bank helped by working with Marion-Polk Food Share to bring 18 pallets of water to people unlikely to get out and get their own water.

Other communities have pitched in to help affected residents get water. The city of Keizer set up numerous water supply locations for people in need. The stations will be open 24/7 through Friday. 

Full list Keizer water locations

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also issued a price gouging consumer alert following Brown's declaration of a state of emergency.

"Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on food, shelter, bottled water, fuel and other items necessary for the health, safety and welfare of Oregonians. We have already received consumer complaints from Oregonians who believe they have been the victim of price gouging in the last 48 hours. Anybody else who believes they have been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, should immediately file a complaint at www.oregonconsumer.gov or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392.”

The state of emergency allows the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate claims of retailers taking advantage of the emergency to charge customers inordinate amounts for water.

"If you're selling water, knock it off," Office of Emergency Management director Andrew Phelps said. "Sell water at the same price you sold it last week."

WATCH: Officials give updates on water situation 


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