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.
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