The city of Banks' hypochlorite generation system on September 6, 2017. 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. 

In Banks, there will be no impact. The city of Banks’ water system uses chlorine, but it creates it on-site.

In response to an email from the Banks Post, Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker said city staff were aware of the issue. 

“We have been discussing this concern this morning,” Becker said. 

In an emailed notice sent out shortly after 1 p.m. from City Recorder Angie Lanter, residents were notified there was no cause for concern in Banks. 

“The City of Banks manufactures our own chlorine gas to chlorinate the water supply.  We do this by using salt, and a Hypo-chloride onsite generator.  We have a good supply of salt and are not affected by the current chlorine gas shortage,” the notice read. 

The city’s water system uses a device called the Wallace & Tiernan OSEC Hypochlorite Generation System to produce chlorine at their water treatment facility near Banks Road just east of Sellers Road. Using a mix of salt, water and power, the system produces enough Chlorine to disinfect Banks’ water without requiring outside supplies. 

The city of Banks' hypochlorite generation system on September 6, 2017. Photo: Chas Hundley

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.”