FOLLOWUP: Why some West Seattle homes are still seeing discolored water: It might not just be the reservoir reroute

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After more reports of yellow or brown water in West Seattle homes in recent days, we have followed up again with Seattle Public Utilities, as promised.

Discolored-water reports are usually specific to one neighborhood and one situation – maybe fire-hydrant use, or a pipe break. This page on the SPU website usually covers those short-lived situations. We first checked with SPU, which provides the city’s water supply, when we started getting reports almost a month ago from neighborhoods scattered around the peninsula. (Our first report from September 25th is here; our second, on September 30th, is here.)

Three weeks later, we’ve continued to get questions – and comments like this one, where a West Seattleite was startled by discolored bath water – so we inquired again. As this comment pointed out at the end of last week, there’s a new bit of information, which we’ve confirmed with SPU:

SPU spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin reiterates that the main cause “is believed to be sediment that was stirred up due to a temporary change in the water system configuration,” with Myrtle Reservoir out of service for seismic upgrades, there’s a new twist, related to the drought: “A secondary cause may be the running of the City’s wells that have been in operation since July 17, 2015 due to the water shortage in our region. Well water, blended with Cedar River Watershed water, is running in areas of the City that include the SODO district and West Seattle, and is used to supplement the City’s water supply. When Seattle’s water supply returns to normal, the wells will be turned off.”

Those wells are north of Sea-Tac Airport, and were activated three months ago as part of SPU’s drought response (mentioned here).

So what’s different about the well water? Minerals, for one thing. “Well water is different from river water and does contain higher levels of naturally occurring iron and manganese than Cedar water, but these levels are still well within the range of health regulations and aesthetic limits. Thus far, the water quality samples that have been taken from the wells do not show levels of iron or manganese that would result in discoloration, and we’ve not experienced customer calls for discolored water in past years when the wells were operated. We will continue to take weekly samples to help us determine the cause of the discoloration and to ensure the water remains safe to drink.”

The reservoir reroute, meantime, is almost over – Goodwin says Myrtle is expected to be back in service next week. “SPU continues to monitor the system and modify the way we pump water to minimize stirring up sediment that can lead to temporary discoloration. We have also added more water sampling and analysis in West Seattle. All water samples collected in West Seattle continue to indicate that the water is safe to drink. The best way customers can help SPU investigate and resolve the problem is by contacting us as soon as they detect any change in color with their water. Please call SPU at 206-386-1800 to report the problem.”

As of Monday, SPU had received calls from 59 customers. Goodwin reiterates, “Although the water is temporarily discolored, it is safe to drink. In most cases, the discoloration will clear by running the water for a few minutes.” If it doesn’t – give them a call.

15 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Why some West Seattle homes are still seeing discolored water: It might not just be the reservoir reroute"

  • fiz October 20, 2015 (2:33 pm)

    We are on the southwest side of the Junction. Our water has been running yellow or cloudy or brownish off and on for months.

    When I call I’m told it’s safe to use. Nothing else.

  • Kim October 20, 2015 (3:14 pm)

    Same location and issues for me too.

  • BB October 20, 2015 (3:14 pm)

    We live in Fauntleroy and we still see some discoloration occasionally. We had a plumber check our hot water heater when it first happened. He said it was completely fine.

  • Julia October 20, 2015 (4:11 pm)

    Our Fauntleroy-area water is not discolored, but has tasted odd since mid-August. Sounds like the well water might be causing that.

  • Vincent Dakotah Langley October 20, 2015 (4:36 pm)

    Just to confirm, at our place on the corner of Fauntleroy Way, SW and SW Edmunds Street we are again seeing yellowish-colored and also a bit of brown water when we turn on any of the water taps in our home. It doesn’t readily seem to clear up really at all when we let the water run for at least a couple of minutes or more. This is in just the last few days including today, Tuesday, 10/20/2015. The water is not particularly good-tasting to drink, as it was for years here, when it was running clear-looking. In fact, it is a bit nasty-tasting. Recently, workers did dig up a water line main out in front of our place and they did something down in that hole that they had dug before they finally buried it all back up again. This work was done on the water line leading into our place, I am sure. Perhaps they didn’t do something right out front here when this work was done — who knows? Anyway, for this and other reasons that I won’t write about here because the subject matter has nothing to do with this water supply situation, really, we are moving soon, after 16 years here. We unfortunately do not know at this time, anyway, where we are moving to, however, the first thing in order with us now is that we are giving most-all of our personal belongings away and we are getting packed up to move on from here. We do love West Seattle and we are sorry to go. Bless you all and Peace be with you all! No matter where we wind up soon, we shall never forget your nice town and your nice area to live, West Seattle!!!

    • WSB October 20, 2015 (4:37 pm)

      Sorry to hear you’re going, Vincent – take care!

  • clulessinws October 20, 2015 (5:23 pm)

    Brownish yellow in Genessee/Admiral. Off and on.

  • miws October 20, 2015 (6:17 pm)

    Best of luck to you and your roommate, Vincent.



  • Ikp October 20, 2015 (9:54 pm)

    We live in the Alki area & last night had some very yellow & brown bath water. No showers/bath for the kids.

  • LolaP October 20, 2015 (10:46 pm)

    Yup. Noticed the brownish tint about a week ago. Fairmount Park area. I’ll call tomorrow.

  • AB October 21, 2015 (6:46 am)

    I had this problem and had to deal with it and SPU not doing anything about it for about 3 years. It was very frustrating. After going through it and finally getting it fixed by them my best advice is to keep calling. The number is 386-1800. Also don’t assume your neighbors are calling with the same problem get them organized and make sure they are all calling if they have a problem. SPU will argue to keep from working on the problem for as long as possible. So the larger you make the issue the harder it is to make it go away.

  • Sara October 29, 2015 (10:39 am)

    Admiral neighborhood, cold water runs yellow no matter how long I let it run, hot water looks fine. I haven’t seen this before. I just called the number and they said they would have a water quality person call me back.

  • Richard October 29, 2015 (12:00 pm)

    Problem just started here in North Admiral.

    • WSB October 29, 2015 (12:19 pm)

      Be sure to call SPU if you haven’t already. We also are working on an update, hopefully today.

  • Julie Long November 6, 2015 (9:37 pm)

    We live in the Gatewood neighborhood between California and Portland street. We have had orange-ish brown water occur 3 times running hot water. It did not clear up in a few minutes. When I called SPU they told me it was a result of the well water they were using due to the water shortage. They told me to let the water sit overnight and to try running it the next day. Our house is 15 years old and so I do t think it is a pipe issue. Our next store neighbors haven’t had any problem. I am now starting to document how many times this continues to occur.

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