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City officials don’t know what caused water on Spokane’s South Hill to smell bad

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 27, 2017, 6:05 p.m.

The city of Spokane investigated reports of dirty and cloudy water on Spokane’s South Hill and determined the casue to be a water main left uncharged for several weeks. (Jonathan Glover / The Spokesman-Review)
The city of Spokane investigated reports of dirty and cloudy water on Spokane’s South Hill and determined the casue to be a water main left uncharged for several weeks. (Jonathan Glover / The Spokesman-Review)

City officials have yet to determine what exactly made the water dirty and smelly for some residents on Spokane’s South Hill Tuesday evening.

Marlene Feist, spokeswoman for the city’s Public Works Department, said the incident apparently involved a 75-year old pipe that had remained unused for several weeks after the city completed a water main replacement on 37th Avenue near Ferris High School. However, determining what exactly was in the pipe would be “hard to know,” she said.

Feist said officials were confident the water was safe to drink once the contaminated supply was flushed from the system.

“The coating inside that pipe is whatever they put inside pipes at the time,” she said. “It’s an organic compound. So what we look at to determine safety is whether we still have active disinfection going on. And we were.”

Late Tuesday afternoon heading into the evening, residents living south and west of Ferris reported a foul odor coming from their water. According to the water department, between 50 and 200 homes were affected. By 10:45 p.m., officials diagnosed the problem, which they said was a water line that had not received fresh water running through it for several weeks, allowing stagnant water to pool along the pipe.

Feist said the city’s records on the manufacturer specs of the pipe were not available, so it would be impossible to know what caused the odor without further testing. She said officials are still running a bacterial sample of the water, but additional testing would be more than they would normally perform.

In a news release sent at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feist wrote that “the City’s water experts say the odor doesn’t pose a health concern,” despite not knowing exactly what was causing the smell.

“The disinfection was still happening,” she said. “That’s where our comfort levels were. We still had active disinfection.”


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