Families fear sickness may be linked to Salem water contamination

KPTV photo.

As Salem awaits its tap water test results, the city is facing criticism from many in the community over when it notified people of the toxic levels of blue-green algae.

Many families say they are concerned they got sick from the water, including the Smith family, who is on the tail end of their bout with some pretty tough stomach issues.

“We thought it was a bug from school, and so we treated it as such, and he’s laying the bed asking me, ‘daddy what can I do to help my stomach?’" Steve Smith said. "So, I kept trying to push water, which is what they always tell us to do, drink a lot of fluids."

Smith says his kids became severely sick Friday, just days before the city put out a tap water advisory.

“There was some knowledge of it and that we were finding out about it after the holiday weekend,” Smith said.

Smith wants accountability from the city after he says he and his two sons came down with severe vomiting and diarrhea, symptoms consistent with exposure to toxins.

On Wednesday, Salem held a joint press conference with several agencies, saying it got test results back of toxic levels of blue-green algae in city water linked to Detroit Lake on Saturday–but it didn’t notify the public until Tuesday.

“It happened over a holiday weekend, we’re getting the results on Saturday and Sunday it is you know a difficult task to try to contact folks from any agency on Memorial Day weekend,” a spokeswoman said at the press conference.

But Smith says that’s not good enough when the community’s health is at risk, let alone his own kids, who were home from school for several days.

“So I’m really left at a spot where I just don’t know what to do," Smith said. "I don’t want my kids getting sick like that again cause’ it makes you feel like a helpless parent."

And while some families are dealing with potential symptoms from exposure, others are getting ready for the long haul, if needed–like Carolyn Ellis, with help from their neighbors in Keizer.

Ellis plans to spread the word to folks as neighboring communities pitch in during the advisory.

“I didn’t think it was that serious but then I got the phone call saying come on out and get some water because we don’t know how long it’s going to last," Ellis said. "I only have small bottled water at home you’re going to run out of that really fast."

Salem expects to get those tap water test results on Thursday from a lab in Texas. If the advisory continues, the city says it is working on logistics for fill stations.

Keizer’s station at Chalmers Jones Skate Park off Rickman Road will remain open 24-hours a day until there’s no longer an advisory.

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