MEDFORD, Ore. — Officials from the Medford Water Commission sent out a request that residents of the area voluntarily reduce their water usage due to a "critical" shortage of the chlorine that is used in water treatment processes.
The shortage is not limited to Medford, but stems from production issues across the country — both from COVID-19 impacts and "unprecedented events" at several major plants, the commission said.
"Our water treatment method uses chlorine, in the form of sodium hypochlorite, in very small amounts to ensure our water is safe to drink," the Medford Water Commission said in a statement. "Both our primary and secondary water sources are of high quality but require additional treatment to meet drinking water standards set by Oregon Health Authority."
Officials said that they will be doing what they can to stretch the limited supply of sodium hypochlorite that they have on hand.
"Part of these operational changes will result in an excess of air in the pipelines, causing the water to appear cloudy. This cloudiness will dissipate over time, and is due to air bubbles, not poor water quality," the Commission said.
The request for voluntary reduction in water usage applies to Medford, Central Point, Eagle Point, Phoenix, Talent, Jacksonville, and White City.
Some recommendations for reducing water usage include eliminating any sources of water waste, such as any known leaks at homes or businesses; reducing vehicle washing or using facilities that recycle water; sweeping paved surfaces instead of washing them; avoid filling pools, hot tubs, ponds, and water features; curtailing sprinkler use where possible; and making sure to turn off water when brushing teeth, shaving, and rinsing dishes.
"These voluntary usage reductions will remain in place until demand levels come down and the chain of supply for sodium hypochlorite has been reestablished. If demand continues to remain at high levels or increases, mandatory restrictions may be imposed," the Medford Water Commission said.
According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the current chlorine shortage stems from a "major electrical failure" at Westlake Chemical in Longview, Washington. Westlake supplies much of the Pacific Northwest with the chlorine 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," OEM said.