Algae toxin detected in Salem water supply

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Salem has added treatment steps to its municipal water system after a toxin produced by an algae bloom was detected in samples from the North Santiam River, the city's primary source.

The toxin is called cylindrospermopsin, the Statesman Journal reported.

It was found at "barely measurable levels" in untreated river water on Aug. 1, said Francis Kessler of the public works department.

None was found in the finished drinking water, Kessler said.

The additional filtering will continue until no trace of cylindrospermopsin is found in river water, he said.

The city hasn't had serious problems with algae blooms, said Public Works Director Peter Fernandez.

"There is no issue today, but we're not out of the woods," Fernandez said.

Cylindrospermopsin can cause an illness in people and pets with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

It's a different toxin than the one that recently contaminated drinking water in Toledo, Ohio, where residents avoided tap water for several days. That toxin was microcystin.

Salem has tested for algae-produced toxins in untreated water from the North Santiam River watershed for four years. Toxins have been found in Detroit Reservoir water samples, when algae blooms tend to occur.

But this is the first summer the city's tests have found cylindrospermopsin in river water, city officials said.

The World Health Organization considers one part per billion of cylindrospermopsin in drinking water to be unsafe.

The amount found in North Santiam River water was far below that amount: five parts per quadrillion.

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Information from: Statesman Journal.

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