Marion County

Salem tap water again unsafe for 'vulnerable' people

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) -- The City of Salem on Wednesday said once again the tap water is unsafe for vulnerable populations.

The city said infants, young children and other vulnerable individuals should not drink the tap water because low levels of toxins from algae blooms have been found in the treated water.

The advisory comes after toxic blue-green algae was detected in Detroit Lake, which is the source of the city's water.

At a mid-afternoon press conference at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem City Manager Steve Powers said they've been doing a number of things to alleviate the problem, including a change in the filters to catch the toxins in the existing system.

"This is a new toxin for us," Powers said. "Algae is not new, but this toxin is new to us." 

So far, he said, they "haven't found the right combination" of changes to combat the problem.

Officials have been testing water at 12 sample locations, including "4 or 5 distribution sites," Powers said. The rest are at or near the reservoir. This advisory was triggered by one bad sample, he said.

"Even though it was just one sample location, we have to assume the entire distribution system may have it," he said.

The advisory applies to City of Salem, City of Turner, Suburban East Salem Water District and Orchard Heights Water Association.

Gov. Kate Brown once again authorized the Oregon National Guard to make water available to the City of Salem and all the residents impacted. Powers thanked the governor as well as the Oregon Health Authority, Marion County officials, the City of Keizer and all the "cities that support each other through mutual aid."

He also said Salem will get some test results back on Thursday and in order to lift the advisory, officials need 2 days in a row with clear results. That means the soonest the advisory could be lifted is Friday.

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

The advisory applies to:

• Children under the age of 6 
• People with compromised immune systems or pre-existing liver conditions
• People receiving dialysis treatment, or other sensitive populations
• The elderly
• Pregnant women or nursing mothers
• Pets

Salem-Keizer School District spokesperson Lillian Govus told KOIN 6 News they are using the same plan as last week, providing bottled water to all vulnerable students. By Wednesday night they will have enough bottled to last through the end of the school year, which is in about 10 days.

Free drinking water is available at multiple locations in the City of Salem

  • 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

The sites will operate around the clock until further notice. All bottled water distribution locations are pull-through, one case per vehicle for vulnerable populations. Trucks will continue to bring bottled water to each site as necessary.

 Residents who need help can call the City of Salem Public Works Department at 503.588.6311. 
For medical information during this advisory, call 211
Industrial consumers and those with health-related information should contact the Marion County Environmental Services at 503.588.5346.

The same Keizer businesses and the City of Keizer are once again offering water. A complete list of businesses and location is listed on the City of Keizer Facebook page.

An earlier advisory was lifted June 2 after random samples of water on May 23 and May 25 found the presence of cyanotoxins higher than the US EPA guidelines. Those cyanotoxins are low levels of cylindrospermopsin and microcystin

Residents in the city should use bottled water for drinking, making infant formula , making ice and preparing food and beverages. 

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