Oxygen shortage due to COVID prompts water alert | News

When municipal water consumers think of conservation, rotating water usage comes to mind. But the cause of the most recent alert is an oxygen shortage due to COVID hospitalizations in the region, city officials warned Friday.

The Campbell Water Treatment plant uses oxygen to form ozone, which is used in water treatment, the city’s statement reads. Airgas — the city’s liquid gas supplier — is asking cities to urge residents to adhere to the odd/even water usage schedule based on the address of the residence.

City Manager Darrel Pyle said the shortage is expected to continue through September.

“Conserving water everywhere will take the pressure off other metro cities who use ozone created from LOX (liquid oxygen) as their primary disinfectant. We use chlorine for our primary, so we’re ok. The ozone is mainly for water clarity and odor control,” he said.

Airgas sent a letter to the City of Norman that due to “significant escalations in hospitalization resulting from the spread of the Delta Variant of COVID-19, hospitals in portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas have been purchasing large quantities of oxygen products,” the city’s statement reads.

The company is prioritizing its supply for medical use, which means a reduction in supply to municipal water supply treatment plants, the statement reveals.

Airgas spokeswoman Kim Menard said via an email to The Transcript that the company is seeing a “two to threefold increase above pre-COVID volumes and is forecasted to continue rising.”

Menard said the company is doing all it can to muster supply for the growing demand.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely and continue to communicate with customers and government authorities to help anticipate needs. We are resolutely committed to meeting medical oxygen needs throughout the pandemic,” her statement reads.

Airgas announced in 2018 it would bring on two additional facilities by 2020 to increase bulk gas production in the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. It planned to serve the food service industry and “medical grade oxygen” to the medical sector and nitrogen to pharmaceutical companies, the statement read.

The Transcript found no announcements for those plant openings on the Airgas website, nor among news media outlets in those states.

Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.

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