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Electrical malfunction at chlorine plant creates critical supply shortage in Oregon

Oregonians are asked to limit outdoor water use for things like watering lawns and filling swimming pools to extend the state’s chlorine supply.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A major electrical failure at a chlorine manufacturer in Longview, Wash. has created a critical chlorine shortage in Oregon that could affect the state’s water supply, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) announced Thursday. 

Westlake Chemicals supplies chlorine for most of the West Coast, emergency officials said. The company is experiencing an electrical failure and is expected to be offline at least until the end of June to undergo repairs. 

Chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water and treat wastewater. 

Officials stressed that Oregon’s tap water remains clean and safe to drink, and the public may continue to regularly use water for drinking, cooking and bathing. 

State officials don’t expect any immediate changes to the water quality, but they will be monitoring potential changes. They will also be looking into alternatives to chlorine for disinfecting water. 

Oregonians are asked to limit outdoor water use for things like watering lawns and filling swimming pools to extend the state’s chlorine supply. 

The cities of Tigard and Lake Oswego put out a statement encouraging their residents to reduce water usage through simple solutions like taking shorter showers, filling up the dishwasher or washing machine all the way before running it and washing vehicles at a car wash rather than at home. 

Brian Rager runs the public works department in Tigard. He says there's a few ways people can reduce their water usage.

"Reducing how long they take showers." Rager said. "Turning the water off while they're brushing their teeth, reducing frequency of irrigation on their lawns and how often they irrigate their lawns."

Water and sewer utilities are aware of the chlorine supply issue and are working with the state and federal authorities to solve the problem. Utilities are preparing to share the remaining chlorine supply through mutual aid. 

Officials said they do not know how long the chlorine shortage will last. They will continue to provide updates to the public as the situation develops. 

Multiple state and federal authorities making sure utilities get the chlorine supply they need. 

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is reaching to the systems with 7-14 days left of supply to provide technical assistance on reducing the amount of chlorine they're putting in water.

"A lot of systems put more chlorine than is regulatory required. It doesn't affect health and the quality of the drinking water, so there is some leeway that can conserve chlorine, reduce the levels but still provide some safe drinking water to water users," said Andrew Ourso, administrator for the Center for Health Protection within the Oregon Health Authority.

As of Thursday, here's how long the current chlorine supply will last some facilities, according to the OHA:

  • Corvallis-18 days
  • Estacada- 16 days
  • Florence- 16 days
  • Medford- 14 days
  • Ashland- 14 days
  • Forest Grove- 15 days
  • Scappoose- 14 days
  • Junction City- 7 days

Some of the systems have chlorine orders they anticipate coming next week as well. OEM says that although production has stopped, orders already in will still be fulfilled with the supply left. 

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