News Feature | May 22, 2019

Salem, Oregon To Invest $75M In Cyanotoxin Defenses

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

Warming weather can be a cause for concern at drinking water utilities around the country where summer temperatures mean the return of toxic algal blooms. These blooms, which typically result from nutrient runoff finding its way into source water bodies and thrive in warm water, can bring poisonous constituents into water systems.

In Salem, Oregon, officials will be making a big investment to avoid the repeat of a cyanotoxin crisis from last year.

“As researchers work to find out the cause of the toxic spread, [Heather Dimke with Salem Public Works] says the City is proposing to spend $75 million, some from the Utility Fund, to prevent the toxins from popping up in the City drinking water again, all while working towards a permanent fix,” according to KMTR.

The city expects to spend $40 million on a water plant ozone treatment system, $3.5 million on short-term water treatment improvement projects, $15.7 million on flood berms and groundwater wells, $11.5 million on aquifer storage and recovery well improvements, and $4.5 million on storage wells, according to the Statesman Journal.

“Officials also are spearheading a pilot project with Oregon State University researchers for an early warning system that uses machine learning to predict when toxins may be present,” per the Journal. “That system will be tested this year but not folded into formal response plans.”

Salem’s short-term measures to fight cyanotoxins will hopefully mark an improvement from last year.

“If toxins become a problem, officials will treat the water with powder activated carbon and additional chlorine — a big change from the start of the water crisis last year,” the Statesman Journal reported. “The new treatments have been added to the existing sand filtration system that has cleaned Salem’s water in the past.”

It may all seem like a hefty investment, but it is likely preferable to the expense that Salem went through last year when cyanotoxin contamination forced it to put a temporary ban on tap water.

To read more about how municipalities deal with cyanotoxins in their water supplies, visit Water Online’s Nutrient Removal Solutions Center.