Salem's toxic water: Hospital not seeing spike in related illnesses, homebound seniors need water


Despite the low levels of toxins found in tap water in the Salem area, health officials are not reporting any significant uptick in illnesses related to the cyanotoxins.

On Thursday, Salem Health hospital leaders told FOX 12 they are ready to treat and help anyone in need, but haven’t seen much of an increase in patients with symptoms associated with the advisory or toxins.

The Oregon Health Authority said it is closely monitoring illness data in the area.

“We have not seen evidence at this point that ties illness to these toxins,” a spokesman for OHA said.

But health experts also said it’s tough to track and know whether someone has an illness related to the toxic water, or another unrelated sickness.

Vulnerable populations are urged to avoid drinking the tap water. That includes children under 6, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone who is medically fragile.

Those with significant issues with vomiting or diarrhea should go see a healthcare provider immediately.

Three days into the water advisory, there are now plenty of options for people to pick up free, safe water – but not everyone can get there.

“Homebound seniors, that’s a pretty dang vulnerable population,” said Marion-Polk Food Share CEO Rick Gaupo.

That’s why it’s crucial for the nonprofit to add water deliveries to its Meals on Wheels program.

The organization had just a small quantity of water on hand Wednesday – enough to give out one bottle to the neediest of the roughly 500 seniors its serves.

Thanks to an outpouring of community support, Gaupo said they’ve since been able to give the seniors more water. They went through 15 pallets of water on Thursday and expect four more truckloads of water Friday.

CAN YOU HELP? Generous community members have stepped up to help Marion-Polk Food Share by dropping off massive amounts of water for homebound seniors affected by the water advisory. Now, they need more volunteers tomorrow to help deliver it. @fox12oregon— Kandra Kent (@KandraKPTV) June 1, 2018

“I’m so incredibly happy the community was so generous,” Gaupo said. “Tomorrow we are giving three gallons of water to each senior that we deliver to and that’s going to carry them through the weekend.”

But Marion-Polk Food Share could use more volunteers to make the deliveries.

Anyone interested in helping should contact them at 503-581-3855.

Gaupo said there should be enough water to help seniors through Monday.

“If this (water advisory) is a week long, or two weeks long, we definitely need more water, more volunteers, more support,” Gaupo said.

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