Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday, October 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 50° Clear
News >  Spokane

City lifts water restrictions in Hillyard, files incident report with police after cleaning system of debris, E. coli bacteria

UPDATED: Wed., July 31, 2019, 6:35 p.m.

City of Spokane Water Department employee Brett Imholt flushes a hydrant, Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at on Mytrle street in Spokane. The city is distributing bottles of water free to residents impacted by the contaminated water in the Hillyard neighborhood. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
City of Spokane Water Department employee Brett Imholt flushes a hydrant, Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at on Mytrle street in Spokane. The city is distributing bottles of water free to residents impacted by the contaminated water in the Hillyard neighborhood. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane officials declared tap water in affected portions of the Hillyard neighborhood safe to drink Wednesday, five days after advising residents that it had likely been contaminated by a hydroseeding company hooking up to a hydrant.

Dan Kegley, director of the municipal water system, said Wednesday evening that an incident report has been filed with the Spokane Police Department and that no one has stepped forward claiming responsibility for the contamination. City code requires anyone who has contaminated the municipal water supply to report it immediately, whether it was “accidental, careless or intentional.”

“We’re talking to folks in the neighborhood, along with some of the businesses along Wellesley, that are close to those hydrants, to see if they can tell us anything,” Kegley said.

The city announced the lifting of the restrictions for roughly 100 to 120 properties in a news release Wednesday afternoon. Customers are asked to run their water for five minutes to clear stagnant water from their pipes before drinking from the tap.

Customers whose service was affected by the contamination will be given a credit on their monthly utility bill, the city said in its news release. That credit will likely go towards their charge in September.

More than 1,000 cases of bottled water were distributed to affected residents in a corridor bounded by Wellesley and Crown avenues and Freya and Havana streets in northeast Spokane. Multiple water tests have been conducted and the Washington Department of Health agreed with the city’s decision to lift the restriction Wednesday, according to the news release.

The city has been tracking all of those costs, Kegley said, and will try to recoup whatever it can to offset them. In other communities that have experienced contamination from hydroseeding reported in Massachusetts, health officials have in some cases fined private companies thousands of dollars.

Private businesses interested in using city water from hydrants must fill out an application to do so with the Water Department, Kegley said. Officials inspect trucks and valves, and applicants must produce a current test report showing that the equipment protects against backflow, he said.

Applicants estimate on the form how much water they’ll use, and Kegley said it’s difficult from the paperwork filed with the city to determine where or when a user is hooking up to a hydrant. In areas where the city knows there will be a large amount of hydrant use, such as at the site of the new Amazon warehouse, the city will install meters on the hydrants to accurately gauge how much water is being pulled from the system for construction uses.

“Not all contractors may report where they’re going to use a hydrant on any particular day,” he said.

Some residents of the Easy Acres Mobile Home Village reported concerns about their tap water in the early morning hours Friday. Subsequent testing showed no chemical contamination present from hydroseeding operations, which is a method of large-scale planting that mixes a slurry of water, fertilizer, mulch and seeds, had shown up in tap water. But some testing showed strains of E. coli bacteria on Saturday, prompting the city to continue cleanup operations through the weekend.

The city has since flushed and chlorinated the water system in the affected area, as well as replaced damaged meters. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, the city said.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com