Oregon water suppliers brace for chlorine shortage
The city of Gresham has reaffirmed the safety of its drinking water despite a regional chlorine shortage stemming from an electrical failure at a manufacturing plant.
Chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water and treat wastewater. In Gresham, the city said the water supplier should have enough chlorine to meet demand through the projected down time of the chlorine plant.
That means Gresham's tap water remains clean and safe to drink, with no need to stockpile water, city officials said.
During this time the state asks residents to use water wisely to extend the current chlorine supply. People can continue using water for drinking, cooking and bathing, but the state requests a limit on outdoor use — including watering lawns and filling swimming pools.
As reported by the Washington Post this month, factors of COVID-19 isolation, an increased demand for backyard pools and a fire at a Louisiana chlorine plant have combined to create the worst chlorine shortage the country has ever seen. Meanwhile, Westlake Chemical, based in Longview, Washington, the West Coast manufacturer of sodium hypochlorite is unsure when they can resume production.
Oregon and Washington wastewater and drinking water service providers are facing down the shortage of the critical chemical component in the water-treatment process. Sodium hypochlorite degrades over time, so maintaining long-term inventory is not an option.
According to a face sheet distributed by the state, Oregon authorities are tracking for potential impacts, but there is no immediate change for consumers anticipated. The state is acquiring pallets of drinking water, if they are needed, but say there is no need for members of the public to amass water supplies.
Gov. Kate Brown's office, statewide Emergency Management and U.S. Homeland Security are leading efforts to procure new chlorine supplies. Agencies are reporting directly to Oregon Emergency Management regarding their current supply duration. Pool owners should brace for a chlorine price jump of about 58% from June through August compared with the same period in 2020, according to IHS Markit data.
Gresham said it will continue to monitor the situation and will update residents if anything changes in the future.
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