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Residents of Airway Heights, Washington, have been advised not to drink water from the tap. The advisory came Tuesday from nearby Fairchild Air Force Base, as part of the Pentagon’s program to test and clean water sources near military bases around the country.

Vulnerability assessments by utilities and emergency planners along the U.S. West Coast suggest it could be weeks or a month or more before water service gets restored after a major earthquake - not to mention electricity, sewage treatment and fuel supply too. The social and economic disruption does not have to be that bad though, given adequate preparedness and investments in critical infrastructure as demonstrated in Japan.

Northwest communities are getting their drinking water from aging infrastructure that is costly to maintain and prone to breaking down.

That’s the conclusion of a new report issued by the Olympia-based Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, which is affiliated with The Evergreen State College.

The center's director, Rhys Roth, said those water systems were state-of-the-art when they were built a century ago.

A sculpture of the microorganisms that help treat wastwater at the West Point Treatment Plant at Seattle's Discovery Park.
Courtesy of Ellen Sollod

Workers continue their efforts to get the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle up and running.

The plant was crippled by a flood last month and it continues to spew solid waste into the Puget Sound every day.

And restoring the plant's full treatment capacity relies on its tiniest workers – bugs: microorganisms that kill harmful bacteria and help in the treatment process. But there's a problem: These tiny little bugs are hibernating.

King County officials are preparing to spend millions of dollars to find out what caused a recent wastewater disaster in Puget Sound.


As President Trump promises major investment in infrastructure, people across the country are hoping that includes spending on water pipes for drinking.

Flint, Mich., was a high-profile example of the many communities — like one in Eastern Kentucky — where people just can't trust their water.

One of the three boilers at King County’s West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant is back on line, heating water to the ideal temperature for the microorganisms that digest Seattle’s sewage. That’s an improvement since February, when an electrical outage followed by a mechanical failure caused massive flooding inside the plant.

Oregon’s backlog of expired water quality permits is among the worst in the country, meaning the state has let facilities discharge pollutants at levels that may violate current protections for the state’s waterways.

That's the argument of a lawsuit filed in Multnomah County today by two environmental groups seeking to force the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to update hundreds of old permits.

The latest Washington state water supply forecast is out and managers said Monday there’s no reason to believe the state might face drought this year.

Washington's Department of Ecology has a robust response plan for oil spills. They have to, because there's an oil spill of some kind every day in Washington.

Ecology spokesperson Larry Altose said sometimes it's the result of a traffic accident and sometimes they find an area of sheen but can't identify the source, especially in high traffic areas.

President Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order that will start to rollback clean water rules. In the Northwest, environmentalists say that could be bad news for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Farm and industry groups are lauding the order.

Advocates say the rule protects countless headwater streams and wetlands in the Pacific Northwest; if ununprotected they could eventually be developed with roads, housing, or more logging operations.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick ordered more water releases from dams on the Klamath River to flush out parasites causing deadly disease outbreaks in salmon.

In recent drought years, scientists have found extremely high rates of a disease caused by an intestinal parasite known as Ceratanova shasta in salmon populations protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit over dams in the Columbia River Basin are asking the court to order federal agencies to spill more water over the dams this spring to help threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead

Conservation groups together with the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe filed a motion in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Todd True, an EarthJustice attorney representing the conservation groups, said new science shows spilling more water over the dams in the spring will improve the survival rate of imperiled fish by helping them reach the ocean.

The agency in charge of managing Oregon's water resources is being stretched to the limit. That's one of the findings in a new audit from the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

Opponents of a possible water bottling plant in the Columbia Gorge are weighing their options now that a judge has approved a water rights transfer that's key to the plant's existence.

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