Toxins have been found in tap water in Salem, Oregon, resulting in the declaration of a state of emergency by Oregon Governor Kate Brown.
The declaration was issued for both Marion and Polk Counties and includes the capital city of Salem, as well as the towns of Turner and Stayton. The National Guard is expected to deliver water to residents using 10 water stations supplied by 2,000-gallon tankers.
Toxic algae blooms have been plauging the Pacific Northwest and, as it turns out, officials in Salem, Oregon misled the public about the presence of an algae bloom and the safety of their water as early as May 23rd.
On that day, the city of Salem issued a press release assuring residents that their water was indeed safe, despite an adisory issued on the very same day by the Oregon Health Authority alerting residents to the existence of toxic algae blooms the city’s water source, the Detroit Reservoir.
“The city has a vigorous water testing and sampling program, and staff are keeping a very close eye on the developing situation,” residents were told. “City of Salem drinking water remains safe to drink.”
Less than a week later, the city’s tone changed dramatically when officials began sending alerts informing residents that the city’s water was contaminated. Officials said the water is harmless to shower in or wash dishes and laundry with, but stressed that drinking the water could cause symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea and even kidney and liver damage.
Experts have warned that the water cannot be treated—filters, boiling, and other methods will not eliminate the troublesome cyanotoxins.
There has been confusion about the situation since it began, from the conflicting reports on May 23rd to an erroneous emergency alert on May 29th. Salem’s official website went down immediately after the city sent emergency alerts to residents.
In one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the fight for clean water is taxing. From Salem, Oregon to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and from Flint, Michigan to the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in Louisiana, Americans are finding their access to clean water threatened.