Clean water pouring into a drinking water glass
Chlorine Supply Shortage Will Not Impact EWEB 06/17/2021

EWEB is aware of the potential chlorine and caustic soda supply shortage that could affect water and wastewater utilities in Oregon and along the West Coast.

Chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water and treat wastewater.

The good news is that our customers are unlikely to see any impacts should the chlorine shortage intensify.

That is because in 2019, after several years of planning, we stopped using chlorine gas and instead implemented an improved system for disinfecting drinking water.

This new system allows us to produce chlorine at our Hayden Bridge Filtration Plant using electricity, salt and water to create sodium hypochlorite, which is liquid bleach.

We currently have plenty of good water from the McKenzie River, abundant electricity and a 75-day supply of the coarse salt used in the electrolytic conversion process to produce sodium hypochlorite. There is no shortage of salt.

"EWEB with support from our Board of Commissioners chose to invest in this state-of-the-art disinfection system for the benefit of our entire community," said Karen Kelley, EWEB Water Operations Manager.  "I am thrilled to see the return on our investment in our ability to continue providing safe and reliable drinking water throughout this supply chain shortage."

Resiliency and safety were the primary drivers that led us to make the investment in the sodium hypochlorite generation system. From a resiliency perspective, there are just a handful of suppliers of chlorine gas in the West, one in Washington, one in Utah and one in British Columbia. Our leadership team worried that any disruption to the manufacturing system or the transportation system could impact our ability to treat drinking water.

From a safety point of view, chlorine gas is toxic and can be hazardous to transport and store. The system launched in 2019 is much safer for our employees and neighbors. Because we are able to produce sodium hypochlorite at Hayden Bridge, we are ready and willing to assist other water utilities locally and throughout the state should the supply shortage continue.

"Not all utilities are in as good a position as EWEB. In fact, this shortage hits far more industries than just water and wastewater," Kelley said. "We are ready and willing to help others in need when and where we are able, especially through our membership in the Oregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network."

EWEB, Springfield Utility Board and Rainbow Water District have been in regular communication during this event and have standing mutual assistance agreements in place, including water system interties, should the shortage become prolonged. There should be limited or no impacts to the Eugene-Springfield drinking water supply.

The tightening supply of chlorine follows a recent disruption at a major chlorine producer in Longview, Wash. The manufacturer experienced the failure of a critical piece of electrical equipment earlier this month that halted the production of chlorine. It is unclear how long the disruption might last.

While EWEB does not speak for other providers, we do know that Oregon utilities are working directly with the Governor's Office, Oregon Health Authority, Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and the Oregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (ORWARN) and federal authorities to obtain chlorine during this disruption.

For more information about how the state of Oregon is helping water and wastewater agencies through this shortage, click here.

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