Spokane officials are advising residents in part of northeast Spokane to avoid drinking tap water because of contamination.
On Friday morning, some residents found their water meters were clogged with grass and seeds, said Mikayla Bloomer, 24, a resident of the Easy Acres Mobile Home Village in Hillyard.
“One lady said that her water was actually green before it got shut off” by the mobile home park managers, Bloomer said.
City officials received reports of the possible contamination at 8 a.m. and then isolated the affected area of the water system by closing off valves, Public Works Director Scott Simmons said at a news conference.
Residents in the area south of Crown Avenue, north of Wellesley Avenue, east of Freya Street and west of Havana Street should avoid drinking tap water, but it is safe to use for cleaning, showers and irrigation, the city said. The area is occupied primarily with commercial facilities and has fewer than 300 homes, officials said.
The Washington Department of Health has no reports of illnesses due to the contamination, said Dorothy Tibbetts, the regional manager overseeing drinking water.
“If they start feeling any type of illness, they should see their physician,” Tibbetts said. She could not speak to any symptoms residents should look out for, because water test results have not come back yet.
The source of the contamination was likely a commercial hydroseed vehicle, which has a tank containing a mixture of seed, mulch and water, that may have allowed a backflow into the city’s water system when filling from a hydrant on Friday, the city said in a news release.
Ken Kegley, the city’s director of water and hydroelectric services, said there “was a discoloration of the water, it had a slight green appearance and there were also some fibers in the water that were consistent with use of hyrdoseeding.”
Officials said the tank may have also contained fertilizers.
The city’s public works division will flush the system with clean water to make it safe to drink. The process could take up to a week, but residents will be notified if it is clean sooner, Simmons said.
“You’ll see quite a bit of water being put on the ground as we try to move water through that system, flushing clean water into the system,” Kegley said.
In the meantime, the city is distributing cases of bottled water at the U.S. Post Office on 4401 North Freya Street until 10 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day until the issue is resolved.
Bloomer said her mobile home park manager is shutting off water to residences that house about 50 people until the water is clean.
“I haven’t been able to flush the toilet at all today,” Bloomer said.
She said she’s gone through about 8 gallons of water with her two kids, two dogs and husband.
“We just got back from camping in Oregon, so we’re pretty good at hoofing it,” Bloomer said.
Once the system is flushed, affected customers will be notified to run their water for five minutes before using it, the city said.
Simmons said the city does not know what company out of hundreds with permits to use hydrants may have caused the issue, but it is actively investigating. He said it’s too soon to say how much flushing out the contamination will cost, as well as if the city will issue fines or revoke permits.
Usually, commercial vehicles leave a gap between the pipe and the tank, but it’s possible a hydrant user’s device designed to stop backflow malfunctioned, Kegley said.
“Our commercial users of these permits are really diligent about this,” Simmons said. “It is a very, very, very rare occurrence.”
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