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City asking you to use less water. Here’s why

(SPU photo)

That’s the Cedar River Watershed, part of where Seattle’s water supply originates. This morning, the city is asking you to use less of that water. Here’s the announcement we just received from Seattle Public Utilities:

After an unusually dry summer and an extended forecast that calls for continued dry conditions, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) today asked its customers to voluntarily use less water. SPU activated its Water Shortage Contingency Plan and is in the voluntary reduction stage, a necessary action to stretch the water supply until fall rains return.

Seattle is working to manage water supplies for people and fish during this extended dry period. SPU asked its 1.5 million customers, which includes people in King County who receive Seattle Water through the Utility’s wholesale customers, to voluntarily reduce their water use until further notice.

“SPU staff has been thoughtfully preparing for dry conditions throughout the summer, working to ensure an adequate water supply for the needs of residents and fish throughout our region. With these dry conditions sticking around, we must all do our part,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “That’s why, at the recommendation of SPU, I’m activating the voluntary stage of the plan and asking residents to cut back on water use until significant rains return in the fall.”

Ways people can reduce their water use:

• Stop watering lawns (It’s OK to efficiently water newly planted lawns, young plants and trees, and vegetable gardens).

• Take shorter or fewer showers.

• Check for and fix leaks now, especially running toilets.

Find more water-saving tips at www.savingwater.org .

“Our customers are great stewards of our environment and already use water wisely every day, and we believe they will take our request to heart,” said Andrew Lee, General Manager of Seattle Public Utilities. “This will be a temporary ask until the fall rains return.”

City of Seattle departments are making immediate operational changes to reduce their water use and stretch the water supply as far as possible.

People who want to stay informed on how well SPU commercial, residential, and wholesale customers are reducing their water use can visit SPU’s At Your Service blog.

SPU manages two large, regional watersheds that supply its 1.5 million customers with some of the cleanest water in the nation. Investing in water conservation programs over several decades has helped stretch water supplies much further than originally anticipated. For example, over the last 40 years, the regional water system has grown from serving 1 to 1.5 million customers, but overall water use has decreased by 30%. Despite this population growth, customers use onlyas much water overall as used in the 1950s.

“While not highly visible work, SPU has done a remarkable job year after year of managing our most precious resource, including watershed protection and careful daily and long-term water resource planning,” said Noel Miller, Chair of the SPU Customer Review Panel. “While our area is typically blessed with sufficient precipitation, SPU’s steadfast commitment to our water supply for people and fish is the reason its customers rarely are asked to reduce water use, even during drier and hotter years.”

For details related to this announcement, including water-saving tips in multiple languages, a map highlighting SPU residential, commercial and wholesale customers, and weekly updates on how much water customers are saving, go here.

UPDATE: Power outage in southwest West Seattle blamed on branch

9:09 AM: Thanks for the tip! 23 homes in southwesternmost West Seattle have been without power since just before 6:30 this morning. No cause listed yet; we’re checking with Seattle City Light; a screengrab of SCL’s outage map shows the outage location.

3:36 PM: The outage has ended since we last checked the map earlier this afternoon. Here’s what SCL’s Jenn Strang tells us about the cause: “Crews found a blown fuse caused by a tree branch contacting wires near 47th Ave SW and Maplewood Place SW. Additional vegetation management and overhead line crews needed to be called in to clear multiple spots of branches growing into the lines in this area before reenergization.”

FOLLOWUP: Repairs planned tonight for longrunning water leak in Junction street

(WSB photo, this morning)

11:54 AM: Earlier this week, we wrote about the longrunning leak that’s left the street chronically wet at California/Edmunds, and Seattle Public Utilities‘ response suggesting our inquiry was the first they’d heard of it. Multiple readers, however, said they’d reported it to the city weeks and months ago. While we awaited a response to our followup inquiry, another commenter pointed out that no-parking signs were placed nearby for work tonight – and today, SPU’s Sabrina Register confirms that:

Thank you for bringing this leak to our attention, and to the customers who reported it to our Operations Response Center (ORC: 206-386-1800), the best route to report flooding and ponding issues and sewer backups. Our crews respond to roughly 800-1,000 potential water leaks alone in any given year, so we appreciate customers helping us find leaks across the City.

The ORC did receive reports of this leak, and we apologize to those customers who felt like their reports were ignored. With the exception of significant, emergency repairs, we perform the work in a more planned and coordinated manner, which can take some time to get the required permits and approvals.

The leak is scheduled to be repaired this evening (September 14), pending coordination with affected businesses in the vicinity. On these types of planned repairs, we work with local businesses in advance because their water service is often shut off for a temporary, multi-hour period, and we can sometimes get the work done in the off-hours or middle of the night to limit those impacts.

So if you see SPU crews at work there tonight, that’s what’s going on. (So far, the SPU water map – which has a list of emergency and scheduled outages – does not include this work.)

ADDED THURSDAY EVENING: While we were in The Junction for the West Seattle Art Walk, we noted the work had begun:

The northbound lanes were blocked but two-way traffic was continuing via a temporary repurposing of a southbound lane.

About that chronic water on the street in The Junction

(WSB photo, September 7th)

You might not notice it today, now that it’s raining, but we’ve long been wondering about that chronically wet spot on California SW at SW Edmunds, as have some readers. After no signs of change, we sent an inquiry to SDOT and Seattle Public Utilities last week, and today SPU spokesperson Sabrina Register replied, “We have (or will be soon) sending a crew to investigate. It appears to be a water issue (not drainage/wastewater issue).” So if you see a city crew at that intersection, that’s what they’re looking into. And if you have any knowledge of an earlier report to the city and/or investigation, please let us know. It seemed like if this went on much longer, we’d be running into the season where the wet spot would become an ice patch.

UPDATE: ‘Major natural-gas leak’ response at paving-project site on SW Genesee

1:12 PM: This morning we mentioned paving work on SW Genesee between 26th and 30th SW. Now there’s a gas leak in the area and the street will be closed until it’s handled – SFD and SPD are headed that way.

1:15 PM: Firefighters have told dispatch it’s a “4-inch main behind a piece of heavy equipment.” They’re having residents in the immediate vicinity “shelter in place” with windows closed. They say the wind “appears to be blowing away” from the residences and are awaiting Puget Sound Energy (which provides gas service in our area).

2:10 PM: SFD reports that PSE has a “temporary shutdown” on the line but is still working to secure it further.

2:18 PM: SFD is affirming that the nearby residents are now safe and they’re reducing their response.

2:38 PM: All SFD units have now cleared. We haven’t heard whether traffic is resuming through the area, though – even before this, it was down to single-lane-with-flagger because of the paving work.

WEST SEATTLE CRIME WATCH: Junction EV-charging station hit by vandalism/theft again

That’s the stub where a cord should be connected to the base of one of the city-owned EV-charging stations on 39th SW in The Junction. We went over after tips this morning and saw the cords missing on both of the chargers. We subsequently asked Seattle City Light spokesperson Jenn Strang about the plan for repair; she indicated the situation was news to them, but said somebody would be dispatched to investigate. The chargers were installed three years ago, and we’ve covered multiple vandalism/theft incidents before.

UPDATE: Gas-leak response on Delridge Way

9:57 AM: Thanks for the tip. Seattle Fire has responded to a natural-gas leak in the 5200 block of Delridge Way SW, and that has the southbound side of the street closed between Brandon and Puget. Updates to come.

10 AM: According to SFD radio communication, this happened because of a sewer-line repair.

10:06 AM: SFD describes this as a “minor leak,” because of a “nicked” line. They’ve been checking the air in neighboring houses for safety’s sake.

10:38 AM: SFD reports that Puget Sound Energy has “secured the leak,” so its units will be leaving, which means the road should be reopening.

UPDATE: Power outage in West Seattle, after pole fire on Avalon

4:38 PM: Almost 3,300 customers are out of power as of moments ago in north West Seattle. We’re working to find out if this is related to police blocking off Avalon Way between Charlestown and Yancy, where SFD has an hour-old “wires down” call.

4:55 PM: We’re getting reports of restoration, at least for some. (added) The map shows it’s down to 483 homes/businesses.

5:07 PM: Those still out are close to the original “wires down” call on Avalon, where the southbound direction is about to reopen, while northbound remains closed. (added) SFD tells us at the scene that the “wires down” were the result of a pole fire; SCL is bringing in a new pole, so the northbound side of Avalon will likely remain closed at least a few hours.

(Reader photo – pole delivery)

8:03 PM: We went through the work zone (since uphill on Avalon, aka southbound, remains open), and the crews are still working with the new and replacement poles. Also note that the continuing outage has lights dark at the Avalon/Spokane/Harbor intersection, which means it’s an all-way stop.

(Reader photo from Melissa)

8:28 PM: Other lights on Avalon are affected too – commenter KD says 35th/Avalon is still out.

11:07 PM: Not restored yet.

1:30 AM: Still out, and public-safety personnel just told dispatch that the SCL crew told them it might take another two hours.

5:30 AM: Commenters report power was restored just after 2:30.

ADDED 1 PM TUESDAY: As promised, we asked SCL about the cause. The reply from spokesperson Jenn Strang: “The cause was the center wire came loose from its head pin. When it came down, it contacted the cross arm and started the fire. We received a report of a smoking wire from Seattle Fire and were responding prior to the outage occurring. Our operations staff was able to quickly reduce the outage down to the smaller number affected. The crew deemed it necessary to replace the entire pole.”

Brown water in Fauntleroy

We continue keeping track of brown-water instances when we get reader reports about them – otherwise there’s no public way to track them via the Seattle Public Utilities website. Today we’ve heard from one reader who is seeing it near Fauntleroy/Trenton, which is by the south end of Lincoln Park. In many cases, it’s because of SFD hydrant testing stirring up “sediment” (rust) in the lines, but nonetheless, any time it happens at your residence or business, please report it to SPU – 206-386-1800.

Brief, widespread West Seattle power interruption

No, it wasn’t just you. That was a fairly widespread, but brief, power interruption about 15 minutes ago. We’ve heard from people all around the peninsula who experienced it too – from Admiral in the north to at least as far south as here in Upper Fauntleroy – but we haven’t heard from anyone who lost power for more than a moment, and the Seattle City Light map shows only two 1-customer spots in North Delridge (an area where some also heard a possible transformer/fuse boom).

UPDATE: Gas-leak response near 36th/Hanford

August 29, 2023 11:34 am
|    Comments Off on UPDATE: Gas-leak response near 36th/Hanford
 |   Utilities | West Seattle news

11:34 AM: Seattle Fire is on the scene of a reported natural-gas leak on 36th SW just north of SW Hanford. They’re calling for Seattle City Light because they’ve noted a “high-voltage transformer” relatively close to the source of the leak.

11:45 AM: Puget Sound Energy – which handles gas service in our area – is still en route.

NOON: PSE has arrived, firefighters just told dispatch.

12:10 PM: And they’ve subsequently “secured the leak.”

UPDATE: 15-customer power outage southeast of The Junction

August 28, 2023 6:46 pm
|    Comments Off on UPDATE: 15-customer power outage southeast of The Junction
 |   Utilities | West Seattle news

6:46 PM: After a bit of a lag, the Seattle City Light outage map is now showing an outage a texter says started about 6:25 pm. They heard an explosion and then lost power. The map says 15 customers are out.

7:25 PM: Our texter reports that a dead crow was found near the origin of the outage – “closed circuit and blew fuse,” they were told, along with the promise that power should be back shortly.

UTILITY NOTES: Mystery brown water in Fauntlee Hills; followup on Puget Ridge’s Saturday power outage

Two West Seattle utility notes:

MYSTERY BROWN WATER: Via text, a reader report: “Just want to report brown water to multiple homes in the Fauntlee Hills area (39th and 40th Ave SW). Called SPU. They said no fire hydrant testing in the area and are sending this to the water quality inspector to investigate.” Hydrant testing has been the most common cause of brown water – stirring up sediment (rust) in the lines – lately, but certainly isn’t the only possibility, which is why reporting it to 206-386-1800 is important, every time.

SATURDAY OUTAGE FOLLOWUP: More than 300 Seattle City Light customers, mostly on Puget Ridge, lost power for more than an hour and a half on Saturday night, as reported here. Shortly after the start of the outage, SFD responded to a “vault fire” call in the 6700 block of West Marginal Way. Today when we followed up, SCL’s Jenn Strang confirmed the two were related – the vault fire actually led to the wider outage: “We de-energized the additional 319 customers for a brief period out of an abundance of caution while SFD and City Light crews safely entered the area. SFD confirmed there was no active fire, but smoke was coming from the vault. The cause was determined to be a fuse in the underground system.”

POWER PROBLEMS: 300+ customers in Puget Ridge area out; vault fire on West Marginal

7:29 PM: Thanks for the tips. Above is a screengrab of the Seattle City Light map showing 317 customers lost power about 10 minutes ago, mostly in the Puget Ridge area. No obvious cause yet. Let us know if you see SCL crews!

7:51 PM: We don’t know yet if it’s related but SFD is responding to a vault fire in the 6700 block of West Marginal [map]. Firefighters report “light smoke coming from an underground vault” and SFD says via Twitter/X: “Firefighters are establishing a 300-foot safety perimeter as a precaution and to protect nearby structures.” … The outage map has, since the start, included two spots off West Marginal, including one in the area of the vault fire, so that might be an indication.

8:05 PM: They’re dismissing most of the units from the vault-fire call.

9:19 PM: Power’s restored to the 300+ who were out.

BIZNOTE FOLLOWUP: Junction plumbing repairs almost done

It’s been almost two weeks since we first reported on sewer-line repairs affecting Elliott Bay Brewing and then Talarico’s Pizza in The Junction. The work got ever more complicated, Tim O’Neill of O’Neill Plumbing Company (WSB sponsor) explained, as they dealt with, among other things, a century-old line. He sent an update today explaining that you’ll see his crews in the area a little while longer:

Both Elliott Bay Brewery & Talarico’s Pizzeria are open for business.

The EBB pipe-lining project from inside the building’s basement to the main on California Ave ha been completed.

We then moved over to Talarico’s to make similar repairs and have found additional pipe separations near the curb line that will require some equipment that is not readily available until early next week.

We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to have everything, including the cement repairs, completed by 8/31.

UPDATE: 4,700 lose power in West Seattle, third outage in less than two months with similar footprint

4:32 AM: Thanks for the tips. 4,700 customers are out of power in (mostly) northwest West Seattle. More info to come ….

4:37 AM: Added above, a screengrab of the City Light map showing the outage zone. We haven’t heard an obvious cause yet. The power went out at 4:25.

4:48 AM: According to a commenter, the problem is at California/Hudson [map]. SFD and City Light are reported to be there.

5 AM: A similar footprint was affected by an outage on July 2nd – that outage was caused by a driver taking out a pole and lines at Admiral/47th/Waite – as well as another one July 24th blamed on an equipment problem (blown fuses) near 30th/Brandon. …

5:40 AM: The map now blames “equipment failure” for the outage. … Via Twitter/X, SCL verifies the “failure” happened at California/Hudson – “downed wire.”

5:43 AM: Some commenters are reporting their power’s back.

5:56 AM: The SCL map has finally updated to reflect that. 2,644 customers still out – will add the revised map, for the record, in a moment. (added) Here it is:

6:36 AM: Commenters say there’s at least a pocket around 47th/Admiral that’s still out, not shown on the map update. … That outage pocket is reported to include the 47th/Admiral signal.

6:46 AM: Thanks to Kevin Freitas, who keeps a continuous skywatching camera going, for sharing this video of how the sky lit up when the outage-triggering failure happened (a few blocks west of his residence):

Meantime, we looked further back in WSB archives. Before the three summer outages (including this one) with similar footprints but different causes, we had three other outages this year affecting thousands in West Seattle, all blamed on trees:
-1/13/23, 4,400+ out after tree came down in North Delridge
-2/3/23, 3,200+ out after tree came down (in wind) in North Delridge
-6/6/23, 3,300+ out after tree came down (in slide) on Harbor Avenue

(There were also several smaller but still notable outages affecting hundreds.)

7:10 AM: The SCL map has added back the Admiral area from which commenters were reporting “still out but not shown on map.” That brings the total out to 2,900+.

7:16 AM: Now that it’s light, our photographer went over to California/Hudson, where a City Light crew is working:

The wires/cables are by the stairway:

9:04 AM: Commenters and SCL report more restored – fewer than 300 still out.

10:47 AM: The map shows the outage entirely resolved. We’ll be following up with City Light for more specifics on the cause.

ADDED 3:49 PM: Here’s what City Light spokesperson Jenn Strang tells us:

CAUSE: The owl mentioned by commenter “Admiral” below was the actual cause, Strang says, in a chain reaction of sorts: “The owl contact outage at SW Walker St and 47th Ave SW resulted in the wire coming down at California and Hudson.”

FOOTPRINT: We asked how three outages with different causes, in different areas (though the owl at 47th/Walker is close to the 47th/Admiral/Waite crash scene at the heart of the early July outaage), wound up with pretty much the same footprint. Strang’s reply: “The footprint is similar because of how the infrastructure is laid out from that particular substation to the outlying feeders.” In some cases, she added, the footprint is affected when SCL has to de-energize an area for safe repairs, but in this case, the identical footprint was shown from the very start of the outage, long before repairs.

Pole falls, wires down near Constellation Park

Thanks to Cathy for the photos. Separate from the earlier South Alki power outage, a pole has fallen and brought down wires at 64th/Beach Drive, across from Constellation Park.

No injuries, Cathy reports. Seattle City Light‘s map says this is affecting one customer.

UPDATE: South Alki power outage

10:04 AM: Thanks for the tips. Almost 300 customers in the South Alki area lost power about 20 minutes ago; above is a screengrab of the Seattle City Light map that shows the area affected. No official cause listed by SCL yet but Lamont, who lives in the area, reports finding a dead bird beneath a transformer.

1:30 PM: Lamont reported that power was back as of just after 1 pm, but SCL’s map hasn’t updated yet.

2:45 PM: Checked back on the map and it does now reflect that this outage has been completely resolved.

BIZNOTE FOLLOWUP: Elliott Bay Brewing reopens in West Seattle

(Added: WSB photo)

4:07 PM: Just heard from Elliott Bay Brewing proprietor Todd Carden: They’re reopening EBB’s West Seattle Junction flagship location at 4:30 pm. As noted here last Friday, it’s been closed several days while plumbers worked on a stubborn sewer-line problem. Repairs are now complete.

ADDED 11:28 PM: Still some work to do, Tim O’Neill of O’Neill Plumbing (WSB sponsor) tells us: “We have been making repairs to an old sewer system that’s been functioning for a century, but finally decided to give up…….. We have found good solid pipe to connect to. The prior pipe we were following was in too bad of condition to reconnect to.” That’s what enabled Elliott Bay to reopen. Next: “Tomorrow we will be inserting a liner from where we made these repairs, out to the middle of the street to reinforce that stretch of pipe. Next step after that will be to make a smaller, yet similar repair to Talarico’s pipe that is in the same general location. We thank everyone for theit patience and please stop into these two great restaurants for a cold brew and a bite !!”

UTILITIES: Brown water on Genesee Hill

Thanks to the texter who reported brown water on Genesee Hill this afternoon, near 46th/Genesee. As always, if it happens to you, be sure to advise Seattle Public Utilities at 206-386-1800. It’s often the result of sediment in the lines stirred up by jydrat testing, but not always – sometimes it’s first word of a pipe problem in the area. (We did see firefighters opening a hydrant on the Gatewood side of SW Thistle today, not far from our HQ, but our water’s been OK.)

UPDATE: Roadway water at Westwood

2:06 PM: We first noticed that visible water flow late in the day yesterday, bubbling from a drain at Westwood Village – more like what you’d see during a storm, but of course, the weather remains dry. It’s resulted in the taping off of part of the south-side east/west drive, just east of Target/Game Stop/Ross. We went back at midday today and it’s still taped off, with the water flow continuing, so we’ve contacted Seattle Public Utilities to find out if they’re aware of the problem and if repairs are planned. Meantime, you’ll have to detour around it if you’re driving to/at WWV.

4 PM: SPU spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin tells WSB, “SPU crews were dispatched this afternoon to check out the running water. They determined that the leak is not coming from the City’s pipe, but rather is the result of a leak on private property.” So that means it’s up to the center to fix.

In case you wondered too: Seattle City Light tree trimming

That’s a screengrab from a Seattle City Light map showing where it’s currently trimming back trees that are close to power lines. We received a call from a concerned reader about major trimming happening along California in South Admiral, so we checked, and learned about the map. As noted in the past, City Light’s pruning work can sometimes appear to be dramatic; this page explains the standards to which they trim to try to reduce tree/line conflicts, which are to blame for many power outages.

(Added: WSB photo)

If they have to cut a tree that’s on your property, you’re supposed to get advance notice. (And yes, there have been past problems – so contact the utility if you think a crew is going beyond the published standards.)

FOLLOWUP: Why Alki’s Pump Station 38 project stalled

August 6, 2023 10:18 am
|    Comments Off on FOLLOWUP: Why Alki’s Pump Station 38 project stalled
 |   Utilities | West Seattle news

(WSB photo, Friday)

If you frequently pass by the Pump Station 38 project site in the 1400 block of Alki Avenue SW, you’ve likely noticed the construction isn’t complete yet, even though it was described as near completion months ago. The artwork is installed, as our photo shows, along with the new guardrail, but otherwise, cones and holes remain. Seattle Public Utilities says in an update, “The work has been delayed due to a malfunctioning pump that needed to be returned to the manufacturer for repair. At this time, the project is tentatively scheduled to be completed in September.” That’ll be five months longer than the “up to nine months” estimated when work started in July of last year.