Anacortes water treatment plant

The Anacortes water treatment plant serves about 65,000 customers in the region.

UPDATES: with more information from mayor and Public Works director

A disruption in the chlorine supply chain following a Washington plant failure earlier this month is prompting Anacortes city officials to ask residents to voluntarily limit their water usage.

Chlorine is necessary to disinfect both drinking water and wastewater.

Mayor Laurie Gere and Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer, who oversee city water systems, spoke to the Anacortes American Friday. Buckenmeyer said while the city usually has a 30-day supply on hand, it currently has a 10-day supply since the city supplier canceled their next shipments.

An extra week’s supply, secured from a supplier in Ohio, will hopefully arrive Monday, he said.

A major electrical failure at the chlorine plant in Longview, Washington, this month caused it to shut down, with repairs estimated to take until the end of June, The Associated Press reports.

The Longview plant will not be producing chlorine for at least another month, Buckenmeyer said.

An earlier disruption in national supply occurred last summer after a plant fire in Louisiana.

Gere said while this issue will affect most cities across the Northwest, she is confident alternative supplies to get through the month will be found quickly, though she advises residents to use common sense when using water and for households to “fill jugs of water” for emergency use.

While Buckenmeyer said the city is not yet giving specific measures to be taken, high water-use activities such as watering lawns and washing cars should be limited.

A continued problem in the supply chain, however, would lead to more severe water conservation measures.

“We are doing everything we can to avoid a boil water advisory,” Buckenmeyer said.

Gere said she is confident alternative supplies will be found and that the announcement to cut back on water is a proactive measure.

Anacortes has water customers that could also be affected. The city runs the treatment facility along the Skagit River in Mount Vernon and sells water not only to Anacortes residents but also customers in Oak Harbor, La Conner, the Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island, the Swinomish Reservation and both oil refineries at March Point, which includes about 65,000 people, according to Buckenmeyer’s estimate.

The city heard of a potential shortage over a week ago and then heard from its supplier earlier this week about being unable to fulfill their orders, Buckenmeyer said. Nearly all the suppliers contacted by the city are affected by the same supply issue, as the plant is the only supplier for the region, he said.

The city also reached out to a supplier in Canada, but permitting will be required to get it across the border.

Both the Marathon and Shell refineries have been assisting the city in finding alternative supplies, Gere said.

The refineries do not need chlorinated water for their processes, but the city does not have a way to provide unchlorinated water to them while still providing chlorinated water to other customers, Buckenmeyer said.

Reporter

I cover health, environment, business and more at the Anacortes American. Feel free to send me tips at qinghram [at] goanacortes.com.

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