Update posted at 11:15 a.m.
Following the state alert concerning a potential chlorine supply disruption, the city of St Helens Communication's Director Crystal King has responded to The Chronicle's questions.
The Chronicle: Is St. Helens asking residents to curtail the use of water? In what way?
Crystal King: The City of St. Helens is not asking residents to curtail their water use at this time. We currently have a sufficient supply of chlorine and are monitoring the situation. We will notify the community if any changes occur.
The Chronicle: What is the chlorine supply status for St. Helens, how much is on hand?
King: We currently have a sufficient supply of chlorine to last several weeks. We received a delivery of chlorine last week and are receiving another delivery today. We have already signed up for another delivery as soon as our supplier has stock. We have been in contact with our supplier which has stopped delivery to all non-essential industries to keep bleach available to municipalities. We will be informing our supplier weekly of our levels to ensure we continue to have sufficient supply.
We keep chlorine stock for both our wastewater treatment plant and water filtration facility which can be shared between the facilities if necessary.
The Chronicle: Without the needed chlorine, what options does St. Helens have for wastewater treatment and for keeping the drinking water safe?
King: We currently have a sufficient supply of chlorine and are in close communication with our supplier to ensure that we minimize any potential disruptions for our community in the coming months. Chlorine is an extremely vital part of treating drinking water and processing wastewater. Without chlorine, we would need to issue a boil water notice because we would not be able to ensure the safety of the water.
If the wastewater treatment plant ran out of chlorine, we would be discharging water with an extremely high E-coli count and recreation on the river would not be as safe.
Update posted at 9:15 a.m. June 18
The Chronicle has contacted St. Helens, Clatskanie and Rainier city officials to find out the impact of the chlorine shortage on city services.
St. Helens Public Works Director Mouhamad Zaher said the city has taken steps to secure the system. Zaher said he would provide more details later today.
Rainier Public Works Director Sue Lawrence said Rainier was informed of the potential for a shortage of chlorine in the region for the drinking water system on June 17.
"Staff immediately assessed the situation," she said. "The city has a reserve of 30 to 40 days supply. The staff with the approval of the Mayor stopped all irrigation of City properties to reduce the demand for chlorine."
Lawrence said arrangements have been made to work with the supplier to maintain a minimum amount to keep the drinking water system safe.
"The city does not use chlorine at the wastewater plant," she said. "The disinfection process for the wastewater is with ultraviolet light."
Lawrence encouraged citizens to voluntarily reduce irrigation and other non-essential uses to help bridge the gap until the supply is restored.
The Chief has not yet received a response from the City of Clatskanie.
Previous Chronicle coverage posted at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 17.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is advising Oregonians to limit outdoor watering of lawns, washing cars or filling swimming pools due to a potential chlorine supply shortage in the state.
Chlorine is used to disinfectant drinking water and to sanitize wastewater.
OEM said a chlorine shortage caused by an equipment failure at a manufacturing facility at Longview, Washington may impact future supplies of chlorine used for treating drinking water and processing wastewater.
Currently, tap water remains clean and safe to drink. The state is tracking for potential impacts, but there is no immediate change anticipated. The public can continue to use water for drinking, cooking and bathing.
Westlake Chemical, based in Longview, Washington, recently suffered a major electrical failure and the company anticipates the plant being offline until the end of June at a minimum.
Westlake supplies Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California with chlorine chemicals used to disinfect drinking water and treat wastewater. The failed piece of equipment is in the process of being repaired at an off-site location due to the nature of the damage.
Westlake is evaluating its options to bring the Longview plant back online and is actively working to help supply chlorine through the market, other Westlake plants or other means necessary to help alleviate the current supply shortage.
On June 16, the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Environmental Quality sent out a survey to all Oregon public water systems and statewide wastewater utilities to identify the status of chlorine disinfection chemicals and any immediate supply problems.
Current Facts and Details
Currently, tap water remains clean and safe to drink. The state is tracking for potential impacts, but there is no immediate change anticipated.
OEM said there is no need to start amassing additional volumes of water.
The state is coordinating the current chlorine inventory and working with local entities to share the supply until Westlake’s chlorine production resumes.
Water and sewer utilities are aware of the chlorine supply issue and are working with the state and other partners in taking proactive steps to solve the problem.
This does not impact all Oregon water and sewer utilities; some utilities and local entities have their own on-site chlorine generators.
Oregon utilities that are impacted are working directly with the Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and utilizing Oregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (ORWARN) and federal authorities to get the chlorine supply they need.
Together, Oregon utilities are inventorying needs across the state and preparing to share the remaining chlorine supply through mutual aid.
It’s not yet known how long the chlorine shortage will last. Many agencies are working together to address the situation for our state utilities, and we will keep the public informed of the situation as it develops.
New Details posted at 6:30 p.m. June 17
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,” OEM Deputy Director Matt Marheine said. “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 timeframe 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.
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,” Marheine said. “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.
For additional updates and information, visit https://www.oregon.gov/oem/emops/Pages/2021-Chlorine-Shortage.aspx.
Follow developments here online and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.