Salem Water Alert Reinstated

On June 8, a water quality advisory was reissued by the Oregon Health Authority for the Salem area. Residents under 5 years of age, pregnant/nursing mothers, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are encouraged to drink bottled or well water.  

The culprit of this do-not-drink advisory is cyanotoxins, which are produced by photosynthetic, aquatic cyanobacteria. Despite being commonly referred to as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria are not technically algae. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, cyanobacteria are often mistaken for green algae since both produce thick mats.   

The two genera of cyanotoxins found in the Salem water supply are Microcystin and Cylindrospermopsin. Both of these cyanotoxins are known to cause liver and kidney problems in humans. According to the Oregon Health Authority, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin irritation.  The Benton County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on May 30 via Facebook stating that Benton County is not at risk for contaminated drinking water, but if you or someone you know frequents Salem, stay safe and spread the word about cyanotoxins.

To learn more about the drinking water advisory, visit https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/healthyenvironments/drinkingwater/Pages/index.aspxFor more information on cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins, check out  https://www.epa.gov/nutrient-policy-data/cyanobacteriacyanotoxins

By Erica Johnson

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