UPDATE (May 28, 8:45 p.m. PT) — Officials in the city of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, are giving the “all clear” to water that was likely compromised by a nearby fuel spill. Investigators have completed two rounds of testing after evidence that automobile fuel had infiltrated one of the city’s water treatment plants. They concluded Tuesday night that the water is now safe to use and consume.
“Although taste and odor effects may linger in the system, the water is safe to use for all purposes,” read a statement from the city’s website posted Tuesday evening.
Myrtle Creek officials say their second round of testing detected gasoline and diesel chemicals in the water, but below “risk based concentration levels” from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Officials say they sampled for two related chemicals — volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons but those were “non-detects.”
Residents in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, had been discouraged from drinking and using the city’s water since Monday, when some locals woke up to the smell of gas or diesel from their tap water. City officials handed out free bottled water as a stopgap in the meantime.
“The City will distribute 3 bottles per individual in the household,” city officials said in a written statement. “The bottled water will be available for pick up at Myrtle Creek City Hall.”
City officials identified the likely source of the problem Monday afternoon.
“We have tracked the problem to a diesel spill upstream from one of our plants,” city administrator Sean Negherbom wrote in an email to OPB. Officials later identified the affected plant as the Springbrook Water Treatment Plant.
Initial test results released Tuesday afternoon indicated the water distribution system didn’t have chemicals derived from gasoline or diesel. But a sample from inside the Springbrook plant did have levels above the DEQ’s risk levels.
Myrtle Creek’s water department took immediate steps to fix the problem, according to Negherbom.
“We have two water sources, so we were able to shut down the contaminated source,” Negherbom said.
By midday Tuesday, the water remained off-limits in the southern Oregon city, though staff was “no longer detecting any diesel odor when flushing hydrants,” according to the city.
“At this point the water should still be considered unsafe to use until further notice,” the city said in a message posted online.
Myrtle Creek officials said they’re addressing the problem and investigating the cause with the help of four outside agencies, including the Oregon Health Authority and DEQ.
Water department staff plan to continue flushing the water to clear out the remaining chemicals.