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Saturday, October 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane replacing residential water meters in effort to restore safe drinking water to portion of Hillyard

City water department workers stationed at the U.S. Post Office at 4401 N. Freya St. with 40 pallets of bottled water bought at Costco had given out about about 19,200 bottles as of Saturday afternoon. By Monday afternoon, the city had given away about 35,000 bottles. (Will Campbell/The Spokesman-Review)
City water department workers stationed at the U.S. Post Office at 4401 N. Freya St. with 40 pallets of bottled water bought at Costco had given out about about 19,200 bottles as of Saturday afternoon. By Monday afternoon, the city had given away about 35,000 bottles. (Will Campbell/The Spokesman-Review)

The City of Spokane is replacing residential water meters in a part of Hillyard where water was contaminated late last week.

Three days after the city advised residents in the the area encompassed by Wellesley Avenue, Freya Street, Crown Avenue and Havana Street not to drink their water, officials remained uncertain when the problem will be fixed.

Marlene Feist, city spokeswoman, said the contamination affects about 100 to 120 properties.

The city believes that a commercial hydroseed vehicle used hydrants in the area on Friday, contaminating the water with mulch and fertilizer. Some residents reported that their water flow was completely gone, and Monday the city confirmed that they are replacing residential water meters that are clogged.

Residents will not be charged if the city replaces their meter, Feist said. The city is working to clean larger commercial water meters in the area impacted as well. Residents experiencing problems with their water pressurecould have a clogged filter in their meter.

“The seed in the fibers in that hydroseed is clogging a lot of those filters, so we’re going through to replace the meters,” Feist said.

The water is safe to use for irrigation or bathing, city officials say, but not for drinking or cooking. The city is waiting for more test results to come back on the contaminated water, likely by Tuesday.

Mikayla Bloomer, 24, a resident of the Easy Acres Mobile Home Village in Hillyard, said she is concerned that even if the village’s water meters are replaced, many residents will still need to hire plumbers individually. Half of the mobile homes in her row have no water due to the clogs, she said.

When the water has come on, it has been green and smelled like chlorine, she said. So her family has been going to a friend’s house to shower when they can .

“Even though the city says just don’t drink the water, that doesn’t mean we have the water in the first place or even want to use the water,” Bloomer said.

Residents impacted by the tainted water can pick up bottled water at the Post Office on 4401 N. Freya St. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So far the city has given out 880 cases of water, or 35,200 bottles, Feist said.

Bloomer said she has picked up a case of water bottles each day and distributed some neighbors who are elderly or disabled. The mobile home park doesn’t have recycling services.

“That creates a waste issue for a lot of people who aren’t going to save them, they just chuck them,” she said.

Both the city and the state department of health would not give an estimated date for when the water will be drinking quality again.

Liz Coleman, state Department of Health spokeswoman, said that the city is sending the department test results as they get them back.

Feist said the city permits businesses to use its water through the hydrants. Those businesses are regulated and must comply with certain rules, to do so, however. Feist said it is likely that the contamination was caused by one of the city’s customers who did not do something correctly.

“What went wrong, we don’t know yet,” she said.

The city will investigate the cause of the backflow into the system, but the first priority is ensuring residents get their drinking water back quickly. Water testing results still were being processed Monday, but the city does not have an estimated date when the water will be drinkable.

“We can get by, but at the same time I don’t want to bother people for my kids to take a shower,” Bloomer said.

Spokesman-Review reporter Jared Brown contributed to this report.


Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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