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Critical chlorine shortage eases

The Medford Water Commission is urging Rogue Valley customers to keep conserving water. File photo
Medford Water Commission still urging conservation

A nationwide shortage of chlorine is easing after a West Coast plant resumed production, but the Medford Water Commission is still urging customers to conserve water amid supply instability and drought conditions.

The shortage was triggered by a major electrical failure at Westlake Chemical, a chlorine manufacturing plant in Longview, Washington, that supplies chlorine for much of the West Coast. One of the plant’s customers provided a spare electrical transformer in late June, allowing the plant to restart production, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

“We’ve been receiving our scheduled deliveries, so that’s good. There’s still some instability in the access chain,” Medford Water Commission General Manager Brad Taylor said on Monday. “But at this point, we’re on a regular schedule and we’re receiving shipments. So we’re probably not fully out of the woods, but things look much better than they did there for a period of time.”

Chlorine kills bacteria, viruses and other microbes in water.

June problems at the Washington state chlorine plant followed an August 2020 fire that destroyed a major chlorine factory in Louisiana.

The Medford Water Commission issued a plea for voluntary water use reductions on June 17. The commission supplies water for several cities in the Rogue Valley, including Medford.

Despite record high temperatures, the community responded by reducing water use by 10-15% compared to typical usage. However, water use increased last week, the commission said.

“Considering this rise in water demand and the fact that our region is still in drought, it is all the more important to continue to use water wisely. Please be mindful in how we use water this summer, and remember it is a valuable resource that should not be wasted,” the commission said in a press release late last week.

Taylor said the Medford Water Commission still has sufficient water supplies through the Rogue River and Big Butte Springs.

“That part is looking good ― considering that we’re in a drought. It’s not an all-rosy picture by any means, but from a supply standpoint, we’re able to get what we need to meet our needs,” he said.

The commission is asking customers to fix leaks, avoid washing vehicles, sweep rather than wash paved surfaces, minimize refilling of water features and pools, don’t water lawns and landscaping every day, water after 9 p.m. and before 5 a.m., postpone new plantings and use mulch and compost to hold in moisture and reduce evaporation.

For more water conservation advice, visit medfordwater.org or contact the commission’s conservation team at 541-774-2436.

For after-hours emergencies with water service, call 541-779-7611.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.