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Portland Public School students will still not be able to use campus water fountains when the new academic year starts next week. 

Instead, students returning to school on Wednesday will continue drinking bottled water while PPS begins the process of replacing non-classroom water fixtures to deal with the problem of high lead levels in its water. The replacements will be installed in six waves of 15 schools at a time. 

The sewage system is crumbling in Carbonado, Washington, near Mt. Rainier. And if Washington lawmakers fail to pass a capital construction budget before they adjourn Thursday, a plan to replace it—and many other projects around the state—will be put on hold.

The Green River emerges from the Howard Hanson Dam. The Green River receives several smaller tributaries.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Washington environmental groups are criticizing the Trump Administration's push to rescind a federal clean water rule. The rule prevents polluters from dumping into small waterways that flow into larger lakes and rivers.

Steve and Sandy Swanson were in a festive mood. It was an early December day and their house was ready for Christmas.

“We already had our Christmas tree up,” Swanson remembers. “The house looked beautiful.”

But, then, a representative of the Navy knocked on the door of their home on top of a ridge on Whidbey Island,

“She walked in, and she seemed genuinely moved by the bad news she was going to have to tell us,” Swanson says.

Puget Sound water quality is monitored from the air by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Flickr Photo/EcologyWA (CC BY-NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/Fnc4Ay

Four months after a disastrous wastewater spill in Puget Sound, water quality levels are normal.

Hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage and stormwater spilled from the West Point treatment plant near Discovery Park. Local lawmakers called it a disaster, and it cost King County millions of dollars in repairs.

The director of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office over the Flint water crisis. Both are felonies in Michigan.

The state's chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, will be charged with obstruction of justice. Four other officials, including the former Flint emergency manager and former director of public works, were also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

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.

A new audit finds that Klamath irrigators should not have received millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The money was used to pay farmers not to use scarce water supplies from streams and rivers in the Klamath Basin straddling Oregon and California.

Nestle Water Bottling Plan Draws Protest — Even After It's Voted Down

Sep 21, 2016

Last May, it looked like voters had stopped the Nestle corporation from putting a water-bottling plant in the Columbia River Gorge. But four months later, activists are raising concerns the project could still happen.

Opponents gathered at the Oregon State Capitol on Wednesday, joining a Native American activist who has spent the week there fasting, in protest. The target of their ire: what they see as continued efforts to bring a water bottling plant to Cascade Locks, an Oregon city in the Columbia River Gorge.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it does not oppose the temporary halt of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion oil pipeline slated to run through four states, including North Dakota.

As we've reported, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposes the pipeline because it fears it could disturb sacred sites and affect the drinking water.

For residents in a tiny town in Pierce County, it's been bottled or boiled water since Wednesday afternoon. The 650 person town of Carbonado is under a boil water advisory because the water line was damaged Wednesday morning.

But for the residents, no water for a couple days is no problem.

It’s the hottest day of the year so far, and a small garter snake decides to take a swim in Steamboat Creek. The thin creature wriggles its way lackadaisically across a deep green pool.

It doesn’t seem to notice the 170 adult steelhead hovering just a few feet below the surface.

“It’s really trying to tempt one of those steelhead to go grab it,” says John Kober, executive director of the conservation group Pacific Rivers.

The residents of Flint, Mich., received some welcome news this week: Researchers released the results of a new round of water tests, showing lead levels in that city's water system falling just below the Environmental Protection Agency action level.

Too many water samples above that level is a red flag for utilities, a sign that they may have a broader lead problem.

Virginia Tech researcher Marc Edwards, who leads the team documenting Flint's water problems, called the new results the "beginning of the end," a turning point in the city's saga with corrosive water.

Lead problems with the water in Flint, Mich., have prompted people across the country to ask whether they or their families have been exposed to the toxic metal in their drinking water, too.

When it comes to assessing the risk, it's important to look in the right places.

Even when municipal water systems' lead levels are considered perfectly fine by federal standards, the metal can leach into tap water from lead plumbing.

A study of drinking water supplies throughout the U.S. shows that numerous sources are contaminated with firefighting chemicals.

A team of scientists examined government data from thousands of public drinking water supplies. The water samples had been collected by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The scientists were looking for several types of chemicals from a class of fluorinated substances used commonly in firefighting foam.

Nestle’s plans to build a commercial water bottling plant in another Northwest town is stirring up more controversy. Waitsburg, Washington's mayor resigned this week amid accusations of backroom deals and protests of the plan by many area residents.

Nestle wants to build a water bottling plant in the Northwest. It first looked to Cascade Locks, Oregon, but voters in Hood County effectively blocked that plan.

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