IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Corvallis, Ore., Can Purify Water Fast in an Emergency

The system will require a lot of expertise to operate. Currently, the trailer sits at the Public Works campus where staff from Public Works, Fire and Emergency Response departments will be trained on how to use the mini facility.

drop of water
(TNS) - Building out its emergency preparedness toolkit, the city of Corvallis recently took receipt of a purification system trailer to provide water for use during emergencies that cause drinking water to become unsafe or unavailable.

"In Salem, they had in 2018, when Detroit Lake had an algae bloom, they lost their ability to distribute potable water to the community," Corvallis Fire Emergency Planning Manager Dave Busby said, standing in front of the trailer on an overcast Friday, April 26.

In the aftermath, the city struggled to provide and distribute safe drinking water to the community.

Through a State Preparedness and Incident Response Equipment, or SPIRE, grant, more than 170 pieces of emergency response equipment have been made available to various city, county and Tribal governments around the state to reduce the risks of fatalities and property damage from a small or large scale emergency.

For Corvallis, that took the form of a water purification system trailer.

Don't let the term "trailer" fool you, Busby said. It's not necessarily mobile, rolling from one location to another.

It is more like a back-up water purification system that will be able to support especially crucial communities, such as hospitals, with potable water in the event that an emergency cuts off access or imparts the quality of drinking water.

"It's not necessarily the big disasters" either, he added. "It could be a water line break in a neighborhood where we're worried about the community members getting drinking water."

The purification unit, which works based on reverse osmosis, is capable of producing 32 gallons of clean, filtered water per minute according to Utilities Division Manager Tom Hubbard.

The system employs granular activated carbon technology and is self-powered by a generator. How long it will operate within a 24-hour cycle is dependent on the source water, Hubbard said.

"If it's super dirty water, the filters will get blocked or will reduce the amount of water, and then we'll have to backwash the filters and start the process over," Hubbard said.

Rivers crisscrossing the city will be the main sources of water to be treated, and the water will be chlorinated to safe drinking water standards.

The trailer comes with other support tools, such as storage tanks where treated water can be collected, loaded onto flatbed trucks and transported to specific parts of the city as needed in an emergency.

Water Operations Supervisor Chad Marshall said there's also a distribution trailer that can be attached to the storage tanks, reservoirs or fire hydrants to distribute water as needed as well.

"We'll be able to offer a few different spots around Corvallis and get people roughly a gallon of water per person in an emergency," Marshall said.

"It looks really simple," Hubbard said about the trailer, but it features a lot of tools, and the system will require a lot of expertise to operate.

Currently, the trailer sits at the Public Works campus where staff from Public Works, Fire and Emergency Response departments will be trained on how to use the mini facility.

"We're still in the process of working through all of that, but for the time being, the unit is being stored here," Hubbard said.

According to Fire Chief Ben Janes, the system is a useful addition to the city's efforts to prepare for events and days the community hopes never arrives — but still must be prepared for.

"We hope we never lose potable water, and that really falls under Public Works, but since emergency response falls under my office, we're a big part of that," Janes said, adding that having the equipment funded through other sources outside the departments' operating budgets has been great.

It's been a five-year journey from when the city applied for the equipment in 2019 to its arrival. Part of the delay was COVID-19 pandemic-induced and supply chain bottlenecks that resulted from global lockdowns.

"I was really excited to get this. I think it's a great opportunity for the community," Busby said.

Kosisochukwu Ugwuede (she/her) covers the cities of Corvallis, Philomath & Millersburg. She can be reached via e-mail at or by phone via 541-812-6091


©2024 Corvallis Gazette-Times, Ore.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.