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Cyanotoxin monitoring of Albany’s drinking water ends for the winter

Albany officials tested the City’s raw and treated drinking water every week from late May through the end of October this year to check for cyanobacteria, the microscopic organisms also called blue-green algae. Only one detection was found in the raw water of the Albany-Millersburg water treatment plant, microcystin at 0.17 mg/L, barely over the minimum detection limit of 0.15 mg/L. The treated drinking water showed no detection of cyanotoxins.

The contaminant was found in the City of Salem’s drinking water in May, leading to a do-not-drink advisory for vulnerable populations in the Salem area.

Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms found naturally in all types of water: fresh, brackish (combined salt and fresh water), and ocean water. These organisms use sunlight to make their own food. When present in large numbers, they may form visible green, blue-green or reddish-brown blooms that float on the surface of the water. Not all blue-green algae blooms produce toxins, but under certain conditions, such as in warm water containing an abundance of nutrients, they can rapidly form harmful algae blooms capable of producing cyanotoxins that can harm humans and animals.

The Salem problem arose from a harmful algae bloom in Detroit Reservoir, part of the North Santiam River, which persisted for several weeks. The advisory prompted all the water utilities along the North Santiam River to begin sampling for cyanotoxins.

The Albany-Millersburg water treatment plant draws water from the main stem of the Santiam River after the North and South forks combine. Albany began sampling both raw and treated water for cyanotoxins on May 30. As a precaution, Albany also sampled raw and treated water from the Vine Street water treatment plant, which draws water from the South Santiam River. Sampling continued through the end of October under Oregon Health Authority drinking water temporary cyanotoxin monitoring requirements. The results of Albany’s cyanotoxin sampling can be viewed at: https://www.cityofalbany.net/departments/public-works/water/cyanotoxins/test-results.

Cyanotoxins were not detected in any treated public drinking water in Oregon other than Salem’s during the monitoring period, and none were detected in raw water outside of the North Santiam River. To view cyanotoxin results along with other water quality results of all public water systems, visit https://yourwater.oregon.gov/.

The Oregon Health Authority recently released proposed permanent rules requiring ongoing monitoring for cyanotoxins in public drinking water.

Albany is committed to complying with all water quality monitoring requirements and will remain vigilant for any signs of contamination. Our customers will receive prompt notification of any detected problems. To receive notification of water emergencies, be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter accounts and sign up for the following:

Customers with questions may contact Albany Public Works at 541-917-7600 or visit https://www.cityofalbany.net/departments/public-works/water/cyanotoxins. If you would like to know more about harmful algae blooms and cyanotoxins, visit the Oregon Health Authority website:

http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HealthyEnvironments/DrinkingWater/Operations/Treatment/Pages/algae.aspx.