The Pacific Northwest chlorine shortage, stemming from a plant shutdown in Longview, Washington, so far is having just a minor affect on mid-valley water systems and public pools.
Most city water systems have enough supply in reserve to ride out the shortage, given that officials at the Westlake chemical plant in Longview say they hope to resume production by the end of the month. The plant, which services clients through the Northwest, experienced a major electrical failure.
There is good news for pool operators and users as the weather heats up. The chemical compounds that pools use to treat their water are not related to those produced in Longview and no shortages are foreseen.
The biggest impact so far of the shortage has been in Albany and Corvallis, where city officials are asking the community to voluntarily conserve water through actions such as limiting outdoor use, taking shorter showers, only running full loads of dishes and laundry and using a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways.
Albany water utility superintendent Scott LaRoque said that the city has about a 20-day supply, which he described as “in the normal range.”
LaRoque added that the city has made some changes in how it uses chemicals to “stretch out the supply” and expressed confidence that the Longview plant will be back in operation soon enough to prevent serious affects.
LaRoque compared the chemicals that cities deploy in drinking water to the liquid bleach that residents use in their homes. Except that the mix used in city water is about 10 times the strength of the home-use models.
Corvallis, meanwhile, says it has a 50-day supply at its two water treatment plans, courtesy of a delivery received June 18. The city has 25 days of chlorine bleach at its wastewater plant.
Philomath, meanwhile, has an 80-day supply, said City Manager Chris Workman, who added that “so long as the plant comes back online we should be fine."
Sodium hypochlorite is the key ingredient in the liquid bleach cities use to treat water. Swimming pool operators, however, use calcium hypochlorite tablets, which are not experiencing any shortages.
“We use chlorine in tab form and have been told by our supplier that they expect to be able to meet our needs, both for the Cool Pool and the Albany Community Pool,” said Scott Jackson, aquatics program supervisor with Albany Parks & Recreation.
Patrick Rollens, public information officer for the city of Corvallis, said that the supply at Osborn Aquatic Center “is in pretty good shape.”
That was the same message we received from public pools in Lebanon, Sweet Home and Philomath, which all used the tablets.