Itemizer-Observer report

SALEM — The Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) emphasized that tap water throughout the state remains clean and safe despite a chlorine supply chain interruption affecting regional drinking water and wastewater treatment utilities along the West Coast.

“There are no immediate impacts, and we continue to track for potential changes or needs,” said OEM Deputy Director Matt Marheine. “The public can continue to use water for drinking, cooking and bathing, but may consider limiting outdoor use to extend the state’s current chlorine supply. We appreciate the public’s careful water usage and want to reassure there is no need to start amassing additional volumes of water.”

The chlorine shortage is the result of a major electrical failure recently suffered at Westlake Chemical, based in Longview, Washington. Westlake supplies chlorine to water and sewer utilities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California.

The chlorine shortage does not impact all Oregon water and sewer utilities, as some entities have their own on-site chlorine generators or have enough supplies on hand to last through the next several weeks. Based on the most updated information available, this time frame is projected to be sufficient for chlorine supplies to resume.

Utilities that may be impacted are aware of the situation and are working directly with the Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), OEM, and utilizing Oregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (ORWARN) and federal authorities to get the chlorine supply they need.

Additionally, Westlake is working to bring the Longview plant back online quickly and evaluating options to help supply chlorine through its other plants and help alleviate the current supply shortage.

“We are drawing on our strong partnerships with Governor Brown’s Office and our local, state and regional partners to proactively and efficiently respond to this evolving situation. Oregon utilities are collectively working together to inventory needs across the state and preparing to share the remaining chlorine supply through mutual aid until production resumes,” stated Marheine. “We are relying on our fellow Oregonians to be responsible and considerate with their water supplies and use.”

How Oregonians Can Use Water Wisely to Extend the Current Chlorine Supply

• Use water only for drinking, cooking and bathing

• Limit outdoor use such as filling pools, washing cars or watering lawns

• Be considerate of fellow Oregonians when purchasing additional water supplies

The electrical failure at Westlake follows a fire that destroyed BioLab in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in August 2020, rendering that plant inoperable. That facility was responsible for a significant portion of chlorine tablets produced for the U.S. market, causing a nationwide chlorine shortage.

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