SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency for Marion and Polk counties on Thursday, following an alert from officials in Salem that the municipal water was unsafe to drink.
Right on the heels of the governor's announcement, state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum issued a warning regarding price gouging in the wake of the emergency.
“We have already received consumer complaints from Oregonians who believe they have been the victim of price gouging in the last 48 hours," said Rosenblum.
According to Rosenblum's office, price gouging refers to a dramatic price increase following an 'abnormal disruption of the market'—such as the Governor's declaration of a state of emergency. Under state law, merchants and wholesalers are barred from increasing their prices 15 percent or more above the amount charged immediately prior to a state of emergency.
“Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on food, shelter, bottled water, fuel and other items necessary for the health, safety and welfare of Oregonians,” said Rosenblum.
Included with Governor Brown's emergency declaration was an order for the Oregon Military Department (OMD) to deploy free, clean water stations within Marion County. Currently the number of planned stations stands at 10, spread throughout Salem and Stayton.
"I want to ensure safe drinking water is available to all residents of Salem and Marion County," said Governor Brown.
The unsafe water alert stems from 'low levels of toxins' caused by algae blooms discovered in Detroit Lake, which serves as the source for Salem's water supply, according to Attorney General Rosenblum's office.
Young children and people with 'compromised health and immune systems' could be harmed by the toxins. Officials have said that boiling tap water or using a camping or faucet filter would not be adequate to eliminate the presence of those toxins.