Salem water crisis costs starting to add up

Salem water crisis costs starting to add up

Salem water crisis costs starting to add upSalem city officials announced Monday they would leave a water advisory in place for another two weeks, as they continue to test and refine new treatment methods. And the crisis appears to be getting more expensive by the day.

City Manager Steve Powers told reporters the city is investing $2 million to remove toxins from the water. They are looking into a “powdered activated carbon absorption” system officials say would take toxins out of the water.

Powers says they will use this treatment system through the end of the 2018 algae season, and will likely use it again in 2019. It would likely cost Salem another $2 million next year.City officials stressed that the carbon absorption system is a short-term solution to toxic algal blooms at Detroit Lake. Powers says they will look into different long-term solutions, like an ozone filtration system, that would cost between $20 million and $30 million.

Meanwhile, costs are adding up for folks in Salem too.

“It’s kind of stressful,” said Tina Altamirano, who lives in Salem.

Altamirano was filling up water jugs at a free fill station in Salem Monday, but she has spent more than $20 of her own money on bottled water since the crisis began. That does not include the time spent going to get the water.

Joan Gonzalez, who also lives in Salem and was filling up a water jug, says she has spent at least $40 on bottled water.

“I have kidney issues, so I won’t drink their water for quite a while,” Gonzalez said.

Recent test results show levels of cyanotoxins in Salem water are below EPA advisory levels, and city officials say it is safe for everyone. Still, city officials chose to extend the water advisory for two weeks.

The advisory has been primarily for vulnerable populations, like young children, infants, pregnant and nursing mothers, those with compromised immune systems, other vulnerable people, and pets.

Several people included in that vulnerable population live at Lancaster Village Senior Center where staff say they have spent thousands on water since the crisis started.

“We have people who are on dialysis; we have people whose immune systems are very weak,” said Judy Belt, manager at the senior center. “We had a couple residents who, on that first night, were ill to their stomach. They attributed it to drinking the water before we knew it was toxic.”

Belt says they have spent an extra $5,000 to $6,000 on water and extra labor costs since the water crisis began.

“This is four days of water, basically. It looks like a lot of water, but it really isn’t,” said David Powers, food service director at the senior center, as he showed KATU News a stack with dozens of cases of water.

Lancaster Village has bottles for their residents to drink and a large tank for bulk water use in the kitchen. Belt and Powers say they are prepared should the crisis last longer.

“It’s shocking how much we get used to just flipping on that tap,” said Powers.

June 11th, 2018 – KATU News – by Keaton Thomas