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The Portland Water Bureau said a shortage of the vital chemical used to treat water should be resolved before the city runs low.

PMG FILE PHOTO - A wastewater treatment facility in Troutdale is shown here. The Portland water system will remain safe for use despite a looming shortage of a chemical used to disinfect the drinking supply.

The Oregon Health Authority first sent out an urgent bulletin last week noting that Longview, Washington-based Westlake Chemical was experiencing a production disruption and would likely be unable to fill orders due to "damage to its facility."

Westlake supplies much of the Northwest's chlorine, which can be used to disinfect water or produce the sodium hypochlorite that is used to treat wastewater.

"The Westlake facility is expected to be back in production by June 28, although supply disruptions may take weeks to resolve," according to the health authority.

City officials, however, say the Water Bureau and sewage-focused Bureau of Environmental Services have enough supplies on hand or on the way to last for several weeks.

"Portland's drinking water remains safe. The Willamette and Columbia rivers remain safe to swim and recreate in," said Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who oversees both bureaus. "We are working with partners at the state and regional level to manage this West Coast chlorine supply shortage. I'm committed to keeping you informed at every step of the way."

If need be, the city can turn off the tap from its usual Bull Run water supply and begin pumping groundwater. At the same time, the dose of chlorine being added to the city's water has been lowered to 1.8 milligrams per liter.

"We are fortunate to have a secondary, high-quality drinking water source in our Columbia South Shore Well Field," said Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer.

Environmental Services staff say they continue to treat more than 70 million gallons of wastewater a day, which then flows into the Willamette and Columbia rivers. While wastewater is treated with hypochlorite during the cleaning process, it is subsequently dechlorinated before the water hits the river.

"We continue to clean wastewater and there is no current impact to either the Willamette or Columbia river," said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan. "Our wastewater treatment operators go above and beyond regulations, and we are proud of that. We are mobilizing our staff to see how we can adjust operations to release clean water to the rivers while conserving treatment supplies."

Zane Sparling
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