A dam and other water intake infrastructure on Clear Creek in the Gales Creek area on August 28 2017 where Forest Grove draws much of their water. Photo: Chas Hundley

A Longview, Wash. chemical facility suffered a power outage earlier this month and as a result, chlorine supplies to municipal water suppliers in the Pacific Northwest are dwindling.

The chlorine shortage came after Houston, Texas-headquartered Westlake Chemical experienced an electrical failure at their chemical plant in Longview, Wash. Chlorine supplies from the plant serve municipal water and sewer customers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Northern California. 

For Gales Creek-area residents on Forest Grove city water, the shortage could eventually impact the water supply. As a result, the city of Forest Grove is asking residents to voluntarily decrease their water usage. 

“Forest Grove water customers can voluntarily help conserve the chlorine supply by reducing indoor and outdoor water use,” the city said on a web page established to provide information on the shortage.

The city said that staff at Forest Grove’s water treatment plant are taking steps to extend the chlorine supply and find other chlorine suppliers, but noted that the water supply remains safe to drink.

"Protection of public health is the City of Forest Grove’s number one priority," the city added.

Much of Forest Grove’s water supply is pulled from Clear Creek at a 4,225 acre city-owned watershed located near the Gales Creek community off of Soda Springs Road and Clear Creek Road. Some Gales Creek residents and businesses are water customers of the city of Forest Grove. 

The location of the Clear Creek Watershed. Map courtesy city of Forest Grove

The city also relies on the Joint Water Commission for water in the summer months to supplement Clear Creek’s water. The JWC pulls from the upper Tualatin River, the Barney Reservoir located west of Cherry Grove, and from Hagg Lake. 

For others in the state who rely on chlorine from Westlake, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, water remains safe to drink and the state still has chlorine, but that could change. 

“There are no immediate impacts, and we continue to track for potential changes or needs,” said OEM Deputy Director Matt Marheine in a press release. “The public can continue to use water for drinking, cooking and bathing, but may consider limiting outdoor use to extend the state’s current chlorine supply. We appreciate the public’s careful water usage and want to reassure there is no need to start amassing additional volumes of water.”

Because many municipal water and sewer systems keep enough chlorine supplies on hand for a few weeks use, the OEM believes that chlorine supplies will resume before Oregon’s municipalities run out, based on the most recent data. 

“We are drawing on our strong partnerships with Governor Brown’s Office and our local, state and regional partners to proactively and efficiently respond to this evolving situation. Oregon utilities are collectively working together to inventory needs across the state and preparing to share the remaining chlorine supply through mutual aid until production resumes,” stated Marheine. “We are relying on our fellow Oregonians to be responsible and considerate with their water supplies and use.”