By Zach Urness
15 June 2018

(Salem Statesman Journal) – This is beginning to feel like a horror movie with a seemingly endless number of sequels.

Call it: “Return of the toxic algae at Detroit Lake.”

For the third time this season — and the second time in three days — the Oregon Health Authority issued a health advisory due to high levels of cyanotoxins at three different locations.

Samples taken 13 June 2018 show toxin levels above the safe recreation threshold at Blowout Arm, Heater Creek and at Detroit Dam’s log boom, according to data posted by the City of Salem. Toxin levels also were elevated in Big Cliff Reservoir.

The high test results continue the rollercoaster ride at a place that’s a popular recreation destination and the source of Salem’s drinking water. [more]

Detroit Lake hit with toxic algae advisory for third time; toxins present at Salem intake


A sign points to one of the water distribution points at the Oregon State Fairgrounds Friday morning, 1 June 2018, in Salem, Oregon. Residents were filling up jugs to the 5-gallon limit, shoring up their drinking water reserves. There are seven locations that will be open around the clock until the water advisory is lifted. Photo: Kelly Jordan / Statesman Journal

By Zach Urness
7 June 2018

SALEM, Oregon (AP) – One of the hottest and driest months of May on record may have contributed to the growth and spread of the toxic algae bloom wreaking havoc in Salem's drinking water.

The algae bloom was originally spotted in Detroit Lake on 8 May 2018 and reached highly toxic levels around 21 May 2018, according to officials.

The record heat and dry conditions apparently kept the bloom strong, allowing the toxins to spread from the reservoir, into the North Santiam River and finally into Salem's drinking water for the first time at dangerous levels.

Salem issued its second do-not-drink alert Wednesday for vulnerable populations following the discovery, for the second week in a row, of high levels of cyanotoxins in the drinking water.

"We have a toxic algae bloom at Detroit Lake just about every year at this time," said U.S. Forest Service Detroit district ranger Grady McMahan. "In most years, we get some rain that helps dissipate the bloom and kind of clear out the lake. But this year we just didn't get rain — it was sunny and dry for an entire month which probably helped it."

The month of May was parched by every standard. It was the fourth-driest and sixth- hottest May in records dating back to 1892, National Weather Service officials said.

In a normal May, the Willamette Valley and Cascade Foothills would get 2.5 to 3 inches of precipitation. This year, only a quarter inch of rain fell, NWS officials said.

Hot and dry conditions can fuel the growth and potency of toxic algae, said Rebecca Hillwig, natural resource specialist with the Oregon Health Authority.

Both Hillwig and McMahan said toxic algae blooms have been more common, perhaps suggesting a link to the string of abnormally hot and dry spring months Oregon has seen in the past four years.

"I think it's fair to say that factors associated with global warming — hotter and drier conditions and a rapid snowmelt — could definitely increase conditions that cause algae blooms," Hillwig said.

"There's a lot of factors to consider, but it's fair to say that we have the potential for more of these type of issues in the future." [more]

Did climate trigger toxic algae bloom hurting Salem's water?

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