Salem Learns From Water Crisis

water faucet

A frank assessment of the City’s performance during the two water advisories this summer is now available here. The third-party report gives a timeline of events, an assessment of what worked well, what did not, and lessons learned. It also includes recommendations such as bolstering communications resources and emergency preparedness operations.

“It important for us to share what we’ve learned and what we are doing about it,” said Salem City Manager Steve Powers. “We have made, and continue to make, improvements to those things we can control, such as water treatment and testing processes, emergency communications, and operations.”

The City hired a national firm, Novak Consulting, to conduct the thorough and broad after-action review following the drinking water advisories. Novak specializes in helping local governments learn from critical incidents.

Specific improvements the City has made, or is in the process of making, to ensure safe water and transparent access to water information include:

  • Establishing a laboratory with the necessary water testing equipment so tests results are received within a matter of hours rather than days, dramatically increasing the speed decision-making information is available.
  • Creating a web page where community members can view the most current water quality test results:
  • Developing a powdered activated carbon system used to protect Salem’s drinking water during periods when cyanotoxins may be present in Detroit Reservoir and the North Santiam River.
  • A commitment to make communications resources more readily available during emergencies.
  • Purchasing water distribution equipment so water is more quickly available in emergencies.
  • Working with federal, state, and private landowners to reduce the impact of land-use activities on Salem’s water source.

The report also underscores the need for city, county, and state agencies to work together to meet the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery needs for the region.

“The City is grateful to the agencies and individuals who came to the City’s aid during the water advisory,” added Powers.

The City of Salem experienced two water advisories this year when cyanotoxins present in the North Santiam River were detected to be above advisory levels in city drinking water. The first advisory was issued on May 29, 2018 and was lifted on June 2, 2018. The advisory was reissued on June 6, 2018 after toxins in drinking water were again detected at above advisory levels. The City lifted the second water advisory on July 3, 2018.

Cyanotoxins in Salem’s drinking water have been below detectable levels since June 21.

Source: City of Salem

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