In May of 2018, Oregon’s capital city of Salem found itself in both a water crisis and a PR crisis. Toxic algae blooms were detected at an out of state lab in water that had been pulled out of the North Santiam River. The North Santiam provides the city of Salem and its surrounding area with the majority of its drinking water.
But the water crisis was only part of the problem. The initial detection of the cyanotoxins was made on a Saturday, while the announcement and subsequent “do-not-drink” order wasn’t given until the following Tuesday afternoon. A four day gap existed between when city officials found out about the toxic water conditions and when the public was made aware of them. Four days of letting the public continue to ingest toxic water.
Water contaminated by these algae blooms, which is especially dangerous for children and adults with compromised immune systems, can cause serious skin irritation as well as headaches, nausea, fever, sore throat, dizziness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle aches, mouth ulcers and blistering of the lips.
In the spring and summer of 2019, in an effort to avoid last year’s water issues and in an attempt to demonstrate active management of public services, the city of Salem spent more than $75 Million in prevention, detection, and management efforts. While it isn’t a guarantee that the North Santiam will always contain the toxins contained in Detroit Lake, it’s always a risk. The city has dedicated resources to monitoring water conditions and protecting the public. In the event of continued toxicity, the city may provide water alternatives such as filling stations and bottled water.
To have your water tested, to see if the water that’s coming from your tap should be trusted, contact a certified water expert. And don’t take your city’s word for it.