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Don't let Calif. water stories spook you

Last year, we learned that the water in Northern California was contaminated with herbicides and pesticides. It makes you think about our own water. Does the Medford Water Commission have any data on whether there are herbicides or pesticides in our own water?

— Wally B.

We first tried to track down information on the incidents you referenced, Wally. Reuters reported that illegal pot grows in the Northern California mountains were responsible for contamination of watersheds in September 2017. Since then, California has run into other difficulties with herbicides, with lawsuits alleging state agencies ruined farmers’ crops trying to kill an invasive aquatic weed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

One of the stories that caused a big splash in 2018, however, was the Sacramento Bee’s report that the state Department of Boating and Waterways was spraying Roundup directly into that same delta. The chemical glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was listed on California’s Proposition 65 list as a probable carcinogen.

In Southern Oregon, however, we have a different story.

The bulk of our municipal water comes from Big Butte Springs, which has water considered “pristine,” according the Medford Water Commission’s website. We also get water from the Rogue River, which is treated at the Robert A. Duff water treatment plant.

Testing is mandated on an annual basis. You can find the most recent results of annual water analyses on the Medford Water Commission’s website. Herbicides and pesticides are listed in the “synthetic organic chemicals” section, said Ben Klayman, water treatment and quality director for the commission.

The most recent water quality data, which includes both the springs and the river, indicated that no detectable levels of herbicides or pesticides, Wally.

The data is a bit old, however; it is from 2016. The next round of data for 2017 will be posted to the website in another month or two, Klayman said.

The Water Commission is working on updating its website, but it explains how water is disinfected by chlorination or ozonation and how it is blended from the two sources depending on where you live in the Rogue Valley.

So are there any other ways you can stay apprised of what’s coming out of your Central Point home faucet?

“I guess read the news from California,” Klayman said, “and be happy we live in Oregon.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.