Emergency alert regarding Salem's water, but Woodburn's water comes from a different source

Woodburn residents rest assured, the city water is just fine.

You may have been alarmed by a civil emergency alert for the Salem area issued by the Office of Emergency Management and subsequent panic in Salem yesterday, but that alert does not apply to Woodburn.

Salem's water woes involve contamination by the cyanotoxins, a product of algal blooms in the city of Salem's Detroit Reservoir, according to OEM.

Woodburn's water is ground water pumped from the Troutdale Aquifer. It is tested for a number of possible contaminants, including lead, radon, arsenic and coliform, but is not a risk from cyanobacteria. The city had no violations of water quality requirements during 2016, according to its 2016 Water Quality Report released last year.

Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, do not contaminate ground water. Blue-green algae needs sunlight and CO2 to perform photosynthesis and grow, and commonly blooms in rivers and lakes during periods of low water and warm temperatures. Cyanobacteria can be poisonous to pets, livestock and young children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Blue-green algae blooms are likely becoming more common and more hazardous to public and environmental health due to the effects of global warming and climate change, according to the EPA. Warmer water temperatures slow water mixing, which promotes algal growth, and warm water is easier for small organisms to move through, allowing algae to float to the surface and grow faster. The algae also flourish when weather patterns alternate between drought and intense storms, as heavy rain first flushes nutrients in waterways and then drought warms water and slows down the flow of rivers and streams.

Salem residents panicked following the alert about cyanobacteria contamination from OEM, which warned that the city's water was unsafe for young children, women who are pregnant or nursing, people with compromised immune systems or liver conditions, and pets. Stores across the city rapidly sold out of bottled water. Woodburn residents reported that Walmart in town also sold out. OEM later issued a correction to the alert for causing undue alarm to residents, and said a technology issue was to blame.

Patrick Evans



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