Portland Utility Bureaus Are Prepared for West Coast Chlorine Shortage

Press Release
As the region experiences a chlorine supply shortage, Portland’s drinking water remains safe and wastewater treatment continues

The Portland Bureaus of Environmental Services and Water are prepared to continue providing their critical services in light of the chlorine supply chain interruptions affecting the West Coast that may affect regional drinking water and wastewater treatment. For updated information about Portland’s drinking water, visit portland.gov/water/chlorine-shortage, and wastewater, visit portland.gov/BES.

ASL interpretation of press release about the regional chlorine shortage.

Both the City’s drinking water (PWB) and wastewater (BES) utilities have enough supplies on hand or committed to last through the next several weeks. Based on the most updated information available, this timeframe is projected to be sufficient for our chlorine supplier to resume supply.  

“Portland’s drinking water remains safe. The Willamette and Columbia rivers remain safe to swim and recreate in,” said Bureau of Environmental Services and Water Commissioner Mingus Mapps. “We are working with partners at the state and regional level to manage this West Coast chlorine supply shortage. I’m committed to keeping you informed at every step of the way.”

We want to reiterate: Portland water remains safe to drink. We currently have enough chlorine to treat our water for the next several weeks.

What Portland Utility Bureaus Are Doing

The Water Bureau has many options, including operational changes and potentially activating groundwater, to avoid interruption. Groundwater has its own supply of chlorine that can augment the Bull Run, if needed. We have lowered our chlorine target to 1.8 mg/L, which continues treating water at a safe level and meets treatment requirements. We are identifying optional activities that can be paused to prioritize water for people.

“The Portland Water Bureau is working with our statewide partners to find solutions to the chlorine shortage that is impacting much of the West Coast,” said Portland Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer. “We are fortunate to have a secondary, high quality drinking water source in our Columbia South Shore Well Field. We will keep you informed as more information becomes available in the coming days.” 

Environmental Services continues to treat more than 70 million gallons of wastewater a day and release cleaned water safely to the Columbia River from the city’s main Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant and to the Willamette River from the smaller Tryon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant at the edge of Lake Oswego.  Chlorine in the form of sodium hypochlorite is used as a final disinfectant at the end of wastewater treatment. The cleaned wastewater is then dechlorinated before being released safely to the rivers.

“We continue to clean wastewater and there is no current impact to either the Willamette or Columbia rivers. Both of Portland’s rivers are clean and safe for recreation and the public can view our weekly Willamette River testing at portland.gov/bes/check-rec.” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan. “Our wastewater treatment operators go above and beyond regulations and we are proud of that. We are mobilizing our staff to see how we can adjust operations to release clean water to the rivers while conserving treatment supplies.”

We are drawing on our strong partnerships with local, state and regional partners to efficiently and thoughtfully respond to this evolving incident/chlorine shortage. We have active partnerships with public health experts, regional water providers and emergency managers across the state. Together, we prepare for a variety of circumstances, including treatment chemical shortages. We can quickly activate mutual aid agreements between partner utility providers, such as the Oregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (ORWARN), if needed. We share updated information among utilities and potentially leverage resources and direct them where they are needed the most. We are also coordinating with Citywide partner bureaus about their optional water use activities.

What You Can Do

Portland has a deeply embedded water conservation ethic. We are fortunate to have an abundant water supply that Portlanders use wisely and we ask that you to continue to do so. 

For updated information about a variety of issues affecting our community, sign up for PublicAlerts at PublicAlerts.org.  

How We Prepare

We carefully invest in water system improvements that have prepared us for emergencies. Because of careful planning, Portland Water Bureau has two high-quality drinking water sources that are available to use in potential emergencies. Investment in our groundwater source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, allows us to operate our water system in a way that will allow us to meet Portlanders’ drinking water needs. We will incorporate lessons learned from this shortage event into the design of our Bull Run filtration facility to mitigate similar risks. 

We are committed to transparency: we will keep you informed as we learn more and determine next steps.

About the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services  

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services - your sewer and stormwater utility - provides Portland residents with programs to protect water quality and public health, including wastewater collection and treatment, sewer construction and maintenance, stormwater management, and stream and watershed restoration.  Follow on Twitter - @BESPortland and portlandoregon.gov/environmental services.

About the Portland Water Bureau

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two high quality water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.