SWEET HOME — Sweet Home’s water supply remains free of cyanotoxins, Public Works Director Greg Springman told the City Council at its meeting Tuesday.
Springman provided councilors with an overview of events over the last two months that saw contamination of the city of Salem’s water supply due to a blue algae issue in Detroit Reservoir and the Oregon Health Authority mandating monitoring for cyanotoxins.
The blue algae issue is most prevalent in open bodies of water, such area reservoirs.
“And just because there is a bloom, it doesn’t necessarily mean cyanotoxins are present,” he said.
Although both the cities of Salem and Sweet Home rely on water from reservoirs for their public drinking water sources, the two dams are significantly different, Springman said.
Springman added that Sweet Home’s water comes directly from the lower portion of Foster Dam itself, whereas Salem’s water is pulled from the North Santiam River after it passes through or over Detroit Dam. Also, the city's water comes from well below the surface of the reservoir, where temperatures remain consistently cool, with less sunlight.
“Our water is drawn at 600 feet and the lowest Foster Reservoir gets is 614,” Springman said. “The reservoir’s current water level is 635 feet and overflow is 637 feet.”
He added that the North Santiam watershed is also much different than South Santiam's. “There are many vacation homes along the North Santiam and there are septic systems and the potential for greater levels of nutrients entering the water that support algae growth.”
Springman said he, City Manager Ray Towry and other staff members are developing a plan to secure potable water in case cyanotoxins are found in the city’s water system. That may include buying up to 3,000 gallons of water per day from the city of Brownsville and trucking in water through the No Drought Co., which has four large tanker trucks.
“We are looking at setting up a system at the new City Hall so people could come and fill containers,” he said.
Springman said mid-valley communities, including Sweet Home, Lebanon and Albany, are taking water samples every Monday. The samples are then analyzed at a private laboratory. That is to continue until Oct. 31.
He said the city’s other option is to develop an alternative water source, such as deep wells, but that would be expensive.
Research is also underway to develop water treatment equipment that will scrub cyanotoxins.
Cyanotoxins are bacteria that generate their own energy through photosynthesis. They can reproduce quickly in slow moving, warm water.
Some types of cyanotoxins affect the liver and others can damage a person’s kidneys.