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Bottled-water scam takes advantage of water fears

Officials are confident city water is safe to drink
 Posted: 2:00 AM July 12, 2014

Ashland officials are warning residents not to fall for a scam in which a person selling bottled water is claiming city water is unsafe to drink.

The person has said the city is using water from Emigrant Lake and cannot properly treat that water at its water treatment plant.

Both claims are false, said city of Ashland Public Works Superintendent Mike Morrison.

"Our water is just as safe as it's always been," Morrison said, noting it passes state health standards. "It's perfectly safe."

The city is using Ashland Creek water flowing into Reeder Reservoir above town as well as Talent Irrigation District water. Both water sources are mixed together and then sent through the water treatment plant.

The city has been supplementing its regular reservoir water with the TID irrigation water in order to make Ashland's water supply last as long as possible during this summer's drought.

Ashland has treated TID water to make it potable in past drought years. The water originates from Howard Prairie Lake and Hyatt Lake, city officials said.

Morrison said the person selling bottled water is also claiming Reeder Reservoir has run dry. In fact, the reservoir is still full, he said.

Morrison said it's not clear whether the person works for Mt. Shasta Spring Water or is pretending to work for that company.

Bob Hershey, Southern Oregon district manager for the bottled water company, adamantly denied any employee was making false claims about the safety of the city's water to boost sales.

He said another bottled water company may be attempting to harm Mt. Shasta Spring Water's reputation.

"It's slander. It's false. It's not anyone who works for me," Hershey said.

He noted he lives in Ashland himself.

"Is city water consumable? Of course. There is a shortage. That doesn't mean it's undrinkable," Hershey said.

Ashland city officials said residents have been doing a good job limiting their water use to conserve the water supply.

As of Friday, the community had been using an average of 4.5 million gallons per day, even after temperatures topped 100 degrees this week.

In past years, summer water use has spiked past 7 million gallons per day as people watered lawns, gardens and landscaping.

Meanwhile, a project to finish the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water pipeline to bring Medford water to Ashland is on schedule. Completion is expected in mid-August to early September.

TID expects to cut off irrigation water to Ashland for the season in mid-September, so that source will no longer be available to supplement Ashland Creek supplies.

Residents who have been contacted by anyone using drought scare tactics to sell anything are asked to contact the Ashland Public Works Department hotline at 541-552-2431.

For water conservation information and drought-related updates, including the amount of water available in Reeder Reservoir, visit www.ashland.or.us/drought2014.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.


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