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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Airway Heights calls off water shortage alert after Spokane crews quickly re-establish connection during road work

UPDATED: Mon., May 13, 2019, 9:11 p.m.

Airway Heights Public Work Department flushes potentially contaminated water from a fire hydrant into Aspen Grove Park in Airway Heights in this photo from May 2017. Since the contamination was found, Airway Heights has been buying its water supplies from the City of Spokane through two connections, one of which was down briefly last week. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Airway Heights Public Work Department flushes potentially contaminated water from a fire hydrant into Aspen Grove Park in Airway Heights in this photo from May 2017. Since the contamination was found, Airway Heights has been buying its water supplies from the City of Spokane through two connections, one of which was down briefly last week. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Airway Heights officials are giving residents the all-clear after a public notice last week warning of potential water shortages.

A water connection between the West Plains city of roughly 8,200 residents and the City of Spokane was shut off for two days last week during road construction on U.S. Highway 2. That connection was installed after the discovery in the summer of 2017 of groundwater contamination by a cancer-causing chemical found in the firefighting foam used for decades at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base.

Airway Heights and Spokane officials were unsure how long the connection, which provides an additional 500 gallons per minute capacity to the West Plains system through the Spokane aquifer, would be interrupted, prompting Airway Heights to post to Facebook on Friday requesting residents take conservation measures. But the system was back operating by Friday evening, said Airway Heights Public Works Director Kevin Anderson, rendering the precautionary message unnecessary.

“If this thing went on, we were prepared to issue press release and start officially implementing conservation measures,” Anderson said. “As it turns out, City of Spokane crews went above and beyond.”

The water was turned off around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday as part of the work to bring a roundabout to the intersection of Highway 2 and Deer Heights Road, the second such installation intended to slow traffic in the growing city west of Spokane. Airway Heights is buying water under the terms of what’s known as an intertie agreement and an emergency addendum approved last year by the Spokane City Council that sets an upper limit on what Airway Heights can buy and an expiration date.

Dan Kegley, Spokane’s director of water and wastewater, said there may be another brief interruption of service as work is completed on the roundabout and medians. The Washington Department of Transportation is building the medians in a project that began in the middle of last month, and Spokane is building the $1.5 million roundabout at Deer Heights Road.

Anderson said any further shut-offs should not cause problems this summer, noting that Airway Heights has a backup uncontaminated emergency well they can tap and the Air Force has funded a temporary seasonal filtration system for one of the contaminated wells that could be activated in a pinch as well.

Spokane also provides a second water connection to Airway Heights, unaffected by the road work, that’s been in operation since 1970. Airway Heights has drawn reserve water from that point during the dry summer months for decades.

The Air Force is also paying the additional costs incurred by Airway Heights to buy water supplies from Spokane at a discounted, wholesale rate, Anderson said, beyond what the city would have paid in electricity costs to pump their own water.

“The Air Force has been a fantastic partner on this project,” he said.

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