West Seattle, Washington
Seattle Public Utilities says it will be repairing a sewer line along 35th SW between Juneau and Raymond starting next Tuesday (May 31st). The flyer it’s circulating in the area says, “The mainline at this location is damaged and requires replacement. Homes and businesses will continue to receive normal service during the repair.” They expect the work, at five spots on the line (shown above), to take about two weeks, with crews there 7 am-4 pm weekdays. While service will continue, there will be mobility effects, including parking restrictions, limited access to driveways during construction work hours, and the closure of “the center two lanes of 35th SW” while the work is under way.
Thanks to the texter who tipped us about this: City Light is repairing a pole on eastbound Admiral Way near Belvidere right now after a driver hit it in the 5 am hour. Police told us at the scene just now that the driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries; two houses nearby are without power. The aftermath of the crash is blocking one eastbound lane.
Next Tuesday night brings the public meeting Seattle Parks promised for community comment on its potential “trade” with King County for 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW, a 35-foot-wide strip of beach with a single-family house, adjacent to community-maintained Cove Park, which is immediately north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. The county bought the house to use as a construction office and staging area during the Barton Pump Station Upgrade project, which was finished last year. It’s talking with the city about trading the house for use as parkland if in exchange it gets a street vacation for land that’s part of the pump station. We covered a Parks presentation about this at the April meeting of the Fauntleroy Community Association. At its May meeting, FCA decided not to take a position on the possible trade but did commit to creating and circulating a “fact sheet” about the situation, and that’s what you can review at the top of this story.
The meeting, meantime, is at 6:30 pm Tuesday (May 24th) in the Emerald Room at The Hall at Fauntleroy on the south side of Fauntleroy Schoolhouse (9131 California SW). In-person input always has a big impact, but if you absolutely can’t make it, you can comment via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2:04 PM: Just checked after a tip, and the Seattle City Light outage map confirms 108 customers (homes) are without electricity in The Arroyos (and part of south Arbor Heights), as of about 20 minutes ago. We’re checking – more to come.
3:17 PM: SCL says the cause of the outage is “equipment failure.” Their current guesstimate for restoration is just before 6 pm – but please remember that it’s only a guess; might happen later, or sooner.
11:26 PM: After almost 10 hours, the outage continues, and the restoration guesstimate is now 4:40 am.
2:50 PM SATURDAY: After 24 hours, the outage ended a short time ago, per a tweet from Kate.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Three weeks down, “several more months” to go.
Most late nights and early morning, somewhere in West Seattle, Seattle Public Utilities workers are flushing another section of our area’s aged water mains, to tackle the “brown water” problems that have vexed customers around the area.
To get the root cause – rust and sediment – out of the system, however, stirs it up in some spots – so, as was the case for a reader who e-mailed us early today, it gets temporarily worse in order to get better.
Meantime, we’ve checked with SPU for an update on how the project – first previewed here March 31st – is going, including one change in the plan, plus we have a firsthand look at what happens at a flushing scene:
(2010 WSB photo – generator truck at Lowman Beach after power outage-caused overflow)
What you see above shouldn’t ever be needed again at Lowman Beach, because of work that’s about to happen at the Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project site and Murray Pump Station next door: A portable generator to power the pump station in times of trouble. Today’s update from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division explains why – along with providing an alert to work that will affect that end of Beach Drive starting tomorrow:
Lane closure on 7000 block of Beach Drive SW tomorrow – May 11 – while crews set standby generator inside facility
King County’s Murray Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control Project contractor will use a second crane to set a standby generator inside the facility building’s southern end. The standby generator will provide backup power to the entire facility and to the existing Murray Pump Station. The pump station currently does not have a standby generator, which created odor and overflow issues in the past.
Crews will use a second crane for one day to set the generator in place. Beach Drive SW will be narrowed to one lane to make space for the second crane. Flaggers will direct traffic on the 7000 block of Beach Drive SW. Drivers can expect delays of up to 15 minutes while the work occurs.
The contractor will then start installing the final section of the 5-foot-wide sewer pipe connecting the new tank to the existing pump station. The pipe will be installed along the southeast side of Beach Drive SW. It will take one month to install the pipe. Shoring installation will occur intermittently throughout the month. Increased noise and vibration is expected at times during shoring work.
Thank you for your continued patience during construction. Please contact the project hotline at 206-205-9186 with any questions or concerns.
As reported here recently, KCWTD told the Fauntleroy Community Association that the project will be done before the end of this year.
(Screengrab from SPU mapping tool you can use to figure out what kind of “service line” goes to your residence)
3:55 PM: Just out of the WSB inbox:
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) said today that two days of extensive testing in five Seattle homes confirms the city’s water continues to be safe to drink.
The utility started testing after learning last week that Tacoma Public Utilities had detected high levels of lead in four water samples taken from galvanized steel service lines.
In response to that information, SPU asked Seattle residents to run their water before using it if the water had not been run for a while. SPU then initiated its own tests to see if the problems reported in Tacoma exist here.
The Seattle test results announced today are well below the action level for lead of 15 parts per billion (ppb). The highest level recorded in Seattle’s tests was 1.95 ppb.
Seattle’s water quality experts worked with five homeowners, distributed throughout the city, with galvanized-steel service lines. They sampled water from the main to the tap, after allowing the water to sit overnight in the pipes.
“This sampling protocol was much more extensive than the standard federal test, and should give customers an added sense of confidence in their water,” said SPU Drinking Water Quality Manager Wylie Harper.
“Seattle Public Utilities is in compliance with U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations,” said Derek Pell of the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) Office of Drinking Water. Pell added Seattle’s testing protocol is supported by DOH.
If customers are interested in learning what kind of material — copper, plastic or galvanized steel — the service line that supplies their homes with drinking water is made of, they can use a new online Web tool.
You can navigate to the Web tool by clicking here.
SPU said the test results released today mean Seattle water customers can return to using water as they did before Thursday’s announcement. (EPA, DOH and SPU recommend running the water before drinking.)
SPU’s source water, supplied to 1.3 million people in the region, comes from protected mountain watersheds in the Cascades Mountains and is considered to be some of the best water in the nation.
Seattle regularly tests its water for lead and other contaminants, and has met all requirements of the federal Lead and Copper Rule since 2003.
The utility’s state-of-the-art water quality laboratory analyzes over 20,000 microbiological samples each year — more than 50 a day taken throughout the system — and conducts chemical and physical monitoring daily, 365 days per year.
SPU continues to work with key stakeholders and regulators including DOH, Seattle-King County Public Health, EPA and city departments.
A phone line has been set up for customers with questions: 206-684-5800. Customers can call today until 7 p.m., and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
9:01 PM UPDATE: As discovered and discussed by commenters, there are some spots on the map where you won’t find the water-line information. We asked SPU, whose Andy Ryan replied: “We know there are some ‘blanks’ in the database. Records were not always well kept or complete and some parts of the city were annexed. If your readers have questions — such as, ‘I can’t find information for my address’ — please ask them to call 684-5800, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.”
(UPDATED 8:11 PM with link to information now posted on SPU website)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“We think our water’s safe. Having said that, we’re going to make sure there’s no cause for alarm.”
So said Andy Ryan from Seattle Public Utilities when we talked with him a short time ago about a new round of water testing and investigation that SPU has launched because of a situation in Tacoma involving lead.
The two cities’ water systems are NOT linked, but the situation that Tacoma uncovered MIGHT also be happening in a small part of Seattle’s service area, so SPU is advising a specific precaution: Until they find out for sure if the lead problem is happening anywhere here too, any time you have NOT run the water in your home or business for six hours, turn on a faucet and run it for two minutes before using it.
This is NOT just a West Seattle thing, and NOT related to the rust/sediment situation that led to the flushing that’s been happening here (just last night, we were out with the flushing crew and were starting to work on that update, when we found out about this and found ourselves writing this completely different water-system story instead).
What Tacoma has been doing, Ryan explained, is looking for galvanized-steel service pipes in their system that are connected to water mains with “a piece of lead pipe called a gooseneck.” He says Tacoma, Seattle, and many other cities have some of those goosenecks because their systems are so old. But they don’t know exactly where those goosenecks are – many are near older houses “built before good records were kept,” explained Ryan.
SPU DOES know where the galvanized lines connect to the water mains. There will soon be a map on the SPU website showing where those are – about 2,000 in Seattle, they believe. That will help them accelerate looking for the goosenecks. Ryan said there had already been an effort to replace them when crews found them, and they’ve been trying to find ways to step up the search. Tacoma, he explains, came up with a way to test water inside galvanized-pipe areas to look for heightened lead levels, and that’s what led to the current concerns, after a handful of samples came back. “As soon as we learned about this, we immediately started to figure out what that meant for our system,” Ryan told WSB. “Short answer is – we don’t know (yet).” So they’re launching the same kind of testing in the galvanized lines to see what turns up.
It should be noted, though, that Seattle Public Utilities has already been routinely testing its water for lead and other undesirable metals such as copper, “greatly exceed(ing) regulators’ standards.”
We visited the lab (March photo above) for our recent story about “who’s watching your water?” related to the ongoing effort to reduce the incidences of “brown water” here. (And yet again, if you haven’t followed our coverage, “brown water” does NOT involve lead – it’s basically rust that’s stirred up in the cast-iron water mains, and even visible levels of it are not a health risk. Lead is basically invisible. It has not turned up in Seattle tests, Ryan says.)
Meantime, they’re hoping to get some samples back “really quickly” to see if what Tacoma found “is applicable here.” Since the locations of possible problems aren’t known yet, “we are asking everyone to just be extra cautious – run your water for two minutes if it’s been sitting in the pipe for more than six hours.” That’s being advised out of “an abundance of caution,” he stresses. “Prior to hearing back from Tacoma, we had not considered, nor had regulators considered, these galvanized pipes and gooseneck fittings to be an issue.” There are some differences between how Tacoma and Seattle run their systems, he notes, particularly the treatment methods, which could lead to a different level of corrosion in their pipes, in turn meaning that what’s detected there will NOT turn up here. But they have to find out.
Until you hear otherwise from SPU, follow the “run the water for two minutes after it’s been in the pipes for six hours” advice TFN. Keep watch for a map on their website showing the “general areas of the 9,000 galvanized service lines, maybe four percent of all our service lines. 2,000 of those might have the gooseneck fittings.” (Those fittings used lead because it was more flexible and less likely to break, he explained.)
If you have questions – SPU already has a special phone number: 206-684-5800.
When the aforementioned map, and any other information, is online, we’ll link that here too.
BOTTOM LINE: For now, SPU is asking *everyone* to run their water for two minutes after six hours of non-use. (So, when you wake up, and when you get home from work, if your residence is empty during the day.) That will soon be narrowed down to the 9,000 or so customers who are connected to water mains via galvanized-steel piping. The lead goosenecks are only believed to be in use for a quarter of those connections, but that will be the most difficult thing for SPU to narrow down.
8:11 PM UPDATE: SPU’s website now has information, linked from its left sidebar, which points you to this page. No location information yet on where the city believes it has the galvanized piping that could be connected to the aforementioned lead-containing gooseneck fittings, but it promises, “More information about potentially impacted homes will be posted here soon.”
We checked in today with Seattle Public Utilities, whose crews are getting ready for Night 3 of a months-long process to flush rust/sediment out of the West Seattle water system, to reduce the recurring brown-water problems that have hit various parts of our area since last fall.
So far, SPU’s Ingrid Goodwin tells WSB, “The crews are still working out the flushing process and have been making some field adjustments to achieve the results we need. So far they have completed four flushes (2 Sunday and 2 Monday). We were hoping to complete 3 to 4 flushes per night, but we’ve run into some problems with operating some of the older valves.”
Tonight, she says they’re expected to be at three locations: 44th/Lander, 45th/Stevens, and, for some “pre-flushing” work, 44th/Spokane. Remember that – as was apparently the case Sunday night – the flushing itself can lead to temporarily discolored water as that water heads out of the system; if at any time you have a problem that persists, notify SPU at 206-386-1800.
BACKSTORY: The plan to flush West Seattle’s pipes this spring/summer was announced three weeks ago. Then on April 8th, SPU shared the map of the first area to be flushed, along with other details. On Sunday, just as the flushing was about to start, we took a closer look at the water-system workings, in part a followup to our March 22nd report on how SPU monitors and tests local drinking water – for “flavor” as well as safety.
11:32 AM: Thanks for the tips – parents of students at Pathfinder K-8 on Pigeon Point mentioned getting e-mail from the school that the power’s out, and a few other people have mentioned losing power for a short time in other areas of east West Seattle (Highland Park, Westwood). Seattle City Light‘s outage map is itself out right now so we can’t use that for a reference. Seattle Public Schools confirms Pathfinder is out; City Light is checking for us to see if anyone else is and what’s going on.
12:21 PM: Scott Thomsen from SCL says, “It was a momentary interruption of two feeder lines caused by a tree making contact with the wires.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
That big tank on SW Barton, about halfway between Westwood Village and the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock – officially known as the Barton Standpipe – is empty and decommissioned.
We didn’t know that until our recent visit to Seattle Public Utilities‘ Operations Control Center in SODO:
At the heart of that visit was a preview of the big flushing operation that SPU is about to start in West Seattle in hopes of lessening the recurring brown-water problems we’ve been covering since last fall. (Even today, we’ve received scattered reports of discoloration – no word on the cause this time.) We published our first flush preview on March 31st, and then followed up on April 8th with the first look at what was being mailed out to local homes.
Now, months of targeted flushing is about to begin in the area shown on this map:
SPU was planning to start with test flushes late tonight at California/Spokane and 49th/Spokane (11:34 pm update: they’re under way, as shown in our quick added video clip).
They’ll be working out the process for a night or two. So we’re taking the opportunity to report the rest of the story behind how SPU gets water to you.
King County Wastewater Treatment Division reps assured FCA that the Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project will be done by the end of the year – the county, in fact, they insisted, is “highly motivated” to finish it by then. The facility itself, a million-gallon tank meant to keep most combined-sewer overflow from spilling into Puget Sound, should be operational by early October. That isn’t the end of the project – next fall and winter will bring restoration of Lowman Beach Park, where an underground pump station is undergoing upgrades and where construction trailers and some other project support has been staged; a ribbon-cutting and celebration is expected to happen next spring.
In the far more immediate future, 6,000 homes in the area are about to get a mailer with the final timeline, and you’re invited to an “information session” at the site two weeks from tonight, Tuesday, April 26th, 5 pm-7 pm.
BACKSTORY: After five-plus years of talking and planning, construction began more than 2 1/2 years ago with demolition of the block of residential buildings that had been on what’s now the tank site. When operational, it’s expected to reduce the number of Puget Sound-polluting overflows – which typically happen during major storms – from an average of five a year, to one.
One week after we first reported that Seattle Public Utilities plans a huge flushing operation intended to lessen the recurring brown-water problems, SPU has settled on where and when it will begin. Word is going out in postal mail today, with a map, announcement, and FAQ. SPU plans to start the flushing the week of April 18th in this area:
That entire area will not be flushed on the same day – it’ll be different neighborhoods on different days (more like, nights) from April through June. Here’s the text of the letter that will accompany the map:
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will begin flushing water mains in West Seattle starting the week of April 18, 2016. The map on the back of this page shows the area in purple that will be flushed first (from April through June). Eventually more water mains throughout West Seattle neighborhoods will be flushed, which will take several months to complete.
SPU is performing this major water-main flush to help maintain water quality and reduce the uptick in discolored water that some West Seattle customers have been experiencing since last summer. Flushing won’t eliminate discolored water, but it will help decrease it.
What do customers need to do? Residents and businesses do not need to take any action to prepare for this work. Customers will be able to use their water as usual. When crews are flushing nearby, customers may notice a slight reduction in their water pressure. They may also see temporary discolored water, which should clear quickly once crews are done flushing the water main. Running the cold water for a few minutes can also help clear the discoloration.
Why does discolored water occur? Discolored water can happen when crews operate a fire hydrant, when there is a water main break or leak, or when the water in the pipes is forced to travel in a different direction than normal. When one of these events happens, naturally occurring sediment in the water and rust in the pipes get stirred up, causing the water to look discolored.
Flushing the water mains will remove some of the sediment and rust that has been resting in the pipes. This will help reduce the level of discoloration and the time it takes for the water to clear when there’s a disturbance in the pipes.
Is the water safe? Yes. Every single day, SPU takes samples throughout the system of the drinking water that it provides to 1.4 million people. The water is tested for contaminants and is regulated by the Washington State Department of Health. Seattle’s water remains safe to drink.
Questions or concerns: If you have any questions or concerns about the flushing process or discolored water, please read through the “Frequently Asked Questions” sheet that is enclosed with this mailing. If you experience any problems with your water, contact SPU’s 24-hour emergency line at 206-386-1800.
We thank you for your patience and understanding while SPU strives to continue to provide some of our nation’s best drinking water.
Also being mailed with the map and letter, a two-page list of Frequently Asked Questions and answers – read them here. And in the meantime, if you get discolored water, wherever you are, whenever it happens, SPU wants to hear from you at that same number, above, the one we’ve been publishing in brown-water coverage since last fall.
After a flurry of discolored-water reports started flowing in last night after 9 pm, we promised to follow up today with Seattle Public Utilities. The response is just in from spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin:
SPU crews conducted two hydrant flow tests last night in West Seattle: one in the vicinity of 48th Ave. SW and Waite St, and the other one on Delridge Way. The hydrant tests are a mandated requirement by the City of Seattle for new construction projects.
As you know, any time there is a disturbance in the water main, discolored water can happen. Last night’s hydrant tests caused discolored water for some customers in those areas where the tests took place. Since last night, SPU has received about 50 calls from customers in West Seattle related to discolored water.
SPU does not typically notify customers in advance about routine, day-to-day maintenance work that crews complete quickly and has a low impact or no impact on customers. However, we understand that many West Seattle residents are acutely aware of discolored water, have been experiencing persistent problems since last summer and want to be informed when SPU knows there might be a disturbance in the water system. SPU needs to do a better job communicating in advance to customers when we know there is planned, day-to-day work by SPU crews that can cause discolored water. We are working on developing and implementing a method to do so soon.
The unidirectional flushing that is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks will not eliminate discolored water, but will help reduce the intensity and duration of discolored water when it does occur. SPU will be sending customers information explaining the work, an FAQ that will answer some questions and a map that shows the areas that will be flushed. Customers, who live in West Seattle neighborhoods where the flushing will start in April, should look for a mailing from SPU to arrive next week.
We had first word of the “unidirectional flushing” plan in this story last Thursday.
10:32 PM: Suddenly in the past half-hour or so, we’re getting reports of brown water in at least two areas of West Seattle, North Admiral and North Delridge. No, it’s NOT the “West Seattle flush” we first told you about last week – that’s not supposed to get going before mid-month. If you’re seeing brown water, tonight or any other time, please call Seattle Public Utilities‘ 24-hour hotline, 206-386-1800. (So far, one North Delridge resident said she was told it’s a hydrant flush; the North Admiral situation seems to be a mystery. But please call if you’re seeing it – that’ll help them sleuth.)
TUESDAY, 9:20 AM: We’re still hearing from people experiencing this; we’re checking with SPU but that’s no substitute for you calling them directly if it’s happening at your house and you haven’t called already. From our recent visits to and reports about SPU’s system, we can tell you the “sediment” to which they refer is basically rust from the old cast-iron water mains that constitute much of the system in this area (among others), not unhealthy but certainly unappetizing, and the upcoming flushing operations are aimed at getting some of it out of the system so that changes in routine such as hydrant operations or leaks/breaks don’t have as much of it to stir up.
(Reader photo from a brown-water situation earlier this month)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After months of intermittent but intense West Seattle brown-water incidents that we’ve been covering – going back to last fall – the city is making plans for a major operation to try to attack the underlying problem: Rust in the pipes.
The rust isn’t unusual and isn’t unhealthy, Seattle Public Utilities stresses – but there shouldn’t be this much of it stirred up when something happens such as a hydrant opening or pipe break, and it should clear faster (as commenters have pointed out, it often lingers longer than they were told it would).
So SPU is planning a “unidirectional flush” – something that utility managers say hasn’t been done anywhere in the city in more than a decade.
It’s not one big operation at one time but will play out over the course of months. We got an early briefing during a visit to the SPU Operations Control Center, following up on our recent behind-the-scenes look at how water safety and quality is monitored.
We met there with drinking water quality director Wylie Harper and other SPU water managers, including operations director Dave Muto. First, some context. Two-thirds of the 1,800 miles of pipeline in SPU territory is unlined cast iron – and this is the primary source of what discolors the water in certain circumstances:
(UPDATE: Power came back for almost everyone at 2:20, after 3 1/2 hours; Admiral reported open again at 5:50 am)
FIRST REPORT, 10:52 PM: It isn’t on the Seattle City Light map yet but we’re getting multiple reports of a power outage. Some reporting it say they’re near The Junction, some are south of Admiral. We have a photographer checking out a crash on Admiral Way that might have taken out lines.
10:54 PM: WSB’s Christopher Boffoli is at the crash scene on Admiral Way between 49th and Garlough [map] and confirms “City Light just cut the power.”
10:56 PM: The power outage is still NOT on the City Light map. We’re hearing from folks all over Admiral and points south. Southernmost report so far is Fauntleroy/Dawson.
11 PM: Now we’re hearing it’s back, at least for some. City Light finally shows the extent that it at least had – more than 4,400 customers.
Meantime, Christopher says Admiral might be closed for some hours at the crash scene because of the pole’s condition. He also reports, “No injuries. SFD tells me that the driver said he was texting. Also claimed he didn’t have insurance. Car appears to be a large SUV of some kind.”
11:12 PM: Those still without power number 1,500+ homes and businesses, per the City Light map.
11:18 PM: While headed back to his HQ to process images, Christopher tells us, he observed: “Traffic lights out at Admiral and 47th, but on and functioning normally at California and Admiral. And the entire Admiral District retail area seems to have power.” Thanks to Ted for the updated outage map image in comments – here it is if you haven’t seen it there:
SCL says via Twitter that repairs could take “4 to 6 hours.” They had to de-energize the lines because the leaning pole sent wires into tree(s) that started catching fire.
11:35 PM: Commenter asked about food safety in multi-hour outages. Here’s advice from the feds. Meantime, we’re adding a few more images from the crash scene. Also, a request – if you’re up when the power goes back on, please text us – 206-293-6302 – we’re not in the outage zone and the City Light maps don’t show when power is restored, only the time it went out. Thanks!
12:09 AM: No change in the City Light map info. We’ll be checking back periodically.
2:25 AM: Just received two texts from people in North Admiral saying their power’s back on.
5:27 AM: According to SDOT, Admiral Way has not yet reopened. This is affecting bus routes too:
Transit Alert – Routes 50, 56 and DART 775 are rerouted off of SW Admiral Way between 49 Ave SW and 59 Ave SW – due to a blockage. UFN.
— King County Metro (@kcmetrobus) March 24, 2016
5:52 AM: Metro just sent an alert that the road is open again and buses are back to normal.
Story and photos by Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s an almost-sacred trust: You turn or pull a handle to open a faucet in your home, and you expect clear, clean water to flow.
Unlike many areas of the world – as is being amply pointed out today, World Water Day – if you have lived here all or most of your life, it’s something you might not think twice about.
That’s why, for those who experienced “brown water” in recent months – as reported here repeatedly, starting when Myrtle Reservoir was offline for work but continuing intermittently even after it went back online – it was so startling, even when reassured that the water’s safe to use. Compounding the concerns is news from elsewhere, particularly the crisis in Flint, Michigan.
So that led some readers to ask, who’s routinely watching the water here, and how?
There, not only does SPU monitor and test samples from around its service area (the entire city and a few areas beyond) through a variety of lab procedures, it also convenes a twice-monthly gathering of taste testers. (To be precise – they test flavor, not taste. More on that shortly.)
7:30 PM: Another round of brown-water reports tonight – we’ve heard from people in several areas we would generally describe as north West Seattle. The first thing we’ve advised, as always: Call Seattle Public Utilities‘ hotline at 206-386-1800. We have also contacted SPU’s communication team, and will update with whatever they find out is going on. (Also note: This is the SPU webpage with general advice about what to do if your water is discolored.)
(Added: Photo sent by Michelle)
8:24 PM: We’ve just talked with Andy Ryan from SPU. He says an SPU crew was using a hydrant in the 3200 block of Belvidere and that’s what stirred up the sediment in the lines. A water-quality inspector is following up on the reports the SPU hotline has received, but Ryan stresses that the water is safe to drink/use – but let it run as advised in the link we featured above.
P.S. Later this week, we’ll be publishing a report taking a closer look at how SPU monitors and tests drinking water, after a visit to its lab in SODO.
ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: SPU tells us today they had about a dozen calls last night and half a dozen this morning. (If you have NOT called and are seeing discolored water, please call them!) SPU’s Ryan says the crew that used the hydrant did not let the water run as long as they should have – until it’s clear – and so, “We will be doing more training to ensure our crews understand their responsibilities in this regard.”
We’re continuing to track brown-water reports in West Seattle – the city says they’re not unusual, with some days bringing 40-50 around Seattle. Today we’ve heard from people near 49th/Dakota and 56th/Andover. As always, we asked them to call the number Seattle Public Utilities gave us for brown-water reports weeks ago – 206-386-1800. Both reported being told that SPU doesn’t have any reports of line breaks or projects today, but that if it’s not SFD testing hydrants – which is done without notification to SPU – it might be work at the new Genesee Hill Elementary project stirring up sediment in the lines. Meantime, we’re working on a big-picture followup for later this week about how water quality is monitored on an ongoing basis. SPU has general “what to do if the water looks weird” info here.
Seattle Public Utilities says an average day could bring dozens of brown-water reports from around the city, for a variety of reasons. Again today, we’ve heard about a few, and here’s what we’ve found out. One report came from 44th SW between Charlestown and Andover, and in the area, we found the crew above, which told us they were doing sewer-pipe work. However, SPU’s Andy Ryan tells us that sewer work and water discoloration are NOT linked – the more likely cause is “a scheduled shutdown early this morning in the area, along California Avenue from SW Dakota to SW Charlestown. Anytime there is a shutdown, people in the area can experience brown water —even if they were not in the scheduled shutdown area.” Once again, if you have water trouble, SPU wants to hear from you – 206-386-1800. There’s also an SPU webpage with some general advice about dealing with water discoloration – find it here.
9 AM: When we first heard about discolored water in Admiral/Belvidere yesterday morning, we advised people to call Seattle Public Utilities – 206-386-1800 – and received early word back that customers were being told it was just hydrant testing, so we didn’t pursue it further, but should have; more reports came in many hours later, and we pinged SPU’s communications team to find out if it was really something more. This morning we finally have the answer, from SPU spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin: “A hydrant on Belvidere was being used to fill up a vactor truck. This action caused customers to experience discolored water. In this case, it took longer than normal for the discolored water to clear. SPU apologizes to customers for the inconvenience. Testing and use of the hydrants for purposes other than firefighting is required periodically.”
9:24 AM: In response to our followup questions: “Our vactor trucks carry water and they need to fill up from time to time, which is pretty common. This was not a testing situation. Pulling water from this hydrant certainly caused more sediment to be disturbed than normal. Our field crews are aware of the problem and will be working to minimize this type of issue in the future.”