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Salem, OR Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Salem, Oregon

Where does Salem get its water from?  The North Santiam River watershed provides Salem’s drinking water. A watershed is the area of land within which all the rainfall and snowmelt reach a common body of water​—a stream, river, lake, wetland, or aquifer. The reason we talk about a watershed, and not just the river, is that the way land is used in the watershed affects the quality and quantity of water it produces. Is Salem's water safe to drink?

Some key points about the North Santiam River watershed include:

Size: Salem’s watershed covers more than 490,000 acres of land stretching from the Cascade Mountain peaks of Mt. Jefferson and Three-Fingered Jack to the City's water intake above Stayton.

Management: Approximately 80 percent of the land in the watershed is owned and managed by the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Uses: The agencies manage for multiple uses including timber harvest, recreation, and water resources. Land use in the entire watershed is a combination of wilderness, lumber, recreation, agriculture, and rural residential.

Communities: A few small communities are located along the river. The combined population of Gates, Idanha, Detroit, and Mill City is about 2,700.

Source: City of Salem, Oregon

Contaminants Found in Salem's Water Supply

(Detected above health guidelines)

Chromium (hexavalent)

Chromium (hexavalent) is a carcinogen that commonly contaminates American drinking water. Chromium (hexavalent) in drinking water may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater. Read more about chromium (hexavalent).

Radiological contaminants

This utility detected Radium, combined (-226 & -228). Radiological contaminants leach into water from certain minerals and from mining. Drinking water contamination with radioactive substances increases the risk of cancer and may harm fetal development.

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Trihalomethanes are cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. The total trihalomethanes group includes four chemicals: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform. 

Potential Health Effects of Consuming These Contaminants

Health risks of Chromium (hexavalent) in excess of the health guidelines

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.02 ppb for chromium (hexavalent) was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a public health goal, the level of a drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Health risks of Radiological contaminants in excess of the health guidelines

Cancer: No standard exist for this contaminant. This utility detected Combined (-226 & -228). Radiological contaminants leach into water from certain minerals and from mining. Drinking water contamination with radioactive substances increases the risk of cancer and may harm fetal development.

Health risks of Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) in excess of the health guidelines 

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.8 ppb for trihalomethanes was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a draft public health goal, the level of drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Contaminant Levels Compared to Other Regions

Chromium (hexavalent)

 - Health Guideline: 0.02 ppb

 - National: 0.782 ppb

 - State: 0.236 ppb

 - Salem, OR: 0.0653 ppb

Radiological Contaminants

 - No standard exists for this contaminant which cannot be good.

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

 - Health Guideline: 0.8 ppb

 - State: 22.9 ppb

 - National: 23.4 ppb

 - Salem, OR: 36.9 ppb

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April Jones

A hiker, blogger, and water quality expert...

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