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water safety

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.

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.

Testing for lead in Washington schools is still voluntary seven years after the state passed rules to make it mandatory. That’s because state lawmakers never provided funding to pay for the testing.

Tacoma School District officials will test every school's water quality. That's after results from last May showed unacceptable levels of lead in six Tacoma schools.

District officials say they're investigating why no one took action to fix the problems.

Bill Radke talks with (Tacoma) News Tribune reporter Debbie Cafazzo about the presence of lead in the drinking water at six schools in the Tacoma School District. Radke also talks with Tacoma resident Elizabeth Rudge. Her home is one of 1,700 that may have lead in the water supply.

Seattle Public Utilities says its dams are about three-quarters full.
Flickr photo/Konstantin Stepanov (CC BY 2.0)

Recent, routine tests in Seattle Public Schools found that 49 schools had at least one faucet with lead levels above the district’s acceptable limit.

The district’s lead threshhold is stricter than federal standards: 10 parts per billion, compared to 20.

Screenshot of the water service map.
Seattle Public Utilities

Seattle Public Utilities staff explained their advice for residents to the Seattle City Council on Monday.

Here are the takeaways:

What's the problem? Is Seattle's drinking water safe?

File Photo of an old water fountain.
Flickr Photo/Paul Domenick (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/dqusC4

Utility officials in Seattle say residents should turn on the faucet for a few minutes if the water hasn't run for six hours. The precaution comes after high levels of lead were found in water lines connected to four Tacoma homes.

In the mornings, Jeff Mastrandea waits a good 30 seconds after turning on his faucet. He also makes sure to drink from a filter. He does this because his water is sometimes laced with unsafe levels of lead. He wants to let any water with the toxic metal drain out before he takes a drink.

When the famously pure water from Portland’s Bull Run Watershed sits overnight in the copper plumbing of his 1984 Gresham home, it corrodes the lead solder that fuses those pipes together.

Thirty-four water systems in Washington state were found to have unacceptable levels of lead. Most of those systems are now in compliance, although four of them are still working toward lower lead levels.
Flickr Photo/Christina Spicuzza (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Flint, Michigan, isn't the only place with lead in its drinking water: 34 water systems in Washington state have tested above acceptable levels of the toxic metal, according to a new investigation from USA Today.

The list includes water systems at five schools: Maple Valley Elementary, Griffin School near Olympia, Shelton Valley Christian School, Skamania Elementary and Washington State Patrol Academy.

In Flint, Mich., families are using bottled water to do everything — from cooking to bathing.

The tap water is still unsafe to drink after government officials allowed corroded lead pipes to poison the water.

People in Flint have lots of questions for those officials. Perhaps the biggest is the one Hattie Collins has.

"When are you gonna fix it? And I mean fix it right," she says.

Why the crisis over Flint's water could really happen anywhere in the US

Jan 20, 2016
f
Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Over the weekend, President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been dealing with the aftermath of lead-tainted water for more than a year now. It's a situation that's led to lead poisoning and brain damage in some children.

Water contamination in Flint, Mich, — where the city switched water sources, causing pipe corrosion and ultimately filling the city's water supply with high levels of lead — has prompted President Obama to declare a state of emergency.

The move, which was requested by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, means FEMA is authorized to provide equipment and resources to the people affected. Federal funding will help cover the cost of providing water, water filters and other items.

If you looked at the children at the edge of Conrad Cooper's pool, you'd think you were watching an ad for something. Jell-O, maybe. Or a breakfast cereal kids like. They're that cute.

They're lined up on the steps in the shallow end, 10 little ones, ranging from age 2 to 5. The boys are in board trunks, many wearing rash-guard shirts like the weekend surfers they might become years from now. The girls wear bright one-piece suits and two-pieces that show their childish potbellies.

Mercergov.org Photo

Mercer Island schools reopened Tuesday as officials said the city’s water supply was safe again after increased chlorination over the weekend. But they advised residents to first run cold water from every tap in their homes for five minutes, starting on the highest floor.

Washington Department of Ecology

Washington state officials have fined a Virginia man $79,000 for illegal clearing of a San Juan Island shoreline.

It’s trouble Dave Honeywell of Fredericksburg, Virginia, wouldn’t have gotten into if he hadn’t just won the lottery.

Scientists have known for a long time that the water coming out of your faucet at home might contain traces of drugs prescribed to people you've never met.

Research shows no one is getting a full dose of say, Prozac, from drinking tap water. But scientists do wonder whether pharmaceuticals in water supplies may be having more subtle, long-term impacts on human health and aquatic life.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Katie Colaneri of WHYY reports.

For decades, the government has enforced regulations to protect and improve water quality. But what about rewarding people for voluntarily managing their land in ways that keep rivers cool and clean?

It's an approach that's underway along two Oregon watersheds: the McKenzie River east of Eugene and the Rogue River near Medford.

Can Mushrooms Help Fight Stormwater Pollution?

Dec 9, 2013
Courtesy of Paul Stamets

Ah, the Garden Giant. He’s a jolly fellow who roams around your garden at night tossing mulch as he merrily skips along, helping your veggies grow lush and tall.

Not quite. The Garden Giant is actually a species of mushroom, scientifically known as Stropharia rugosoannulata, that may hold a key to filtering harmful pollutants from stormwater runoff.

Climate Change May Worsen Green Lake's Algae Blooms

Oct 25, 2013
Washington State Department of Ecology Photo

If you’re a Green Lake regular, you may have noticed the public health alerts on placards around the lake, warning you not to tread where neon green algae blooms have blossomed.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

A large water pipe next to the University Village mall, just east of the University of Washington, erupted Tuesday afternoon, shooting a 20-foot geyser into the air and shutting down traffic at the start of rush hour.

Flickr Photo/Anthony D'Onofrio

UPDATE: 9/25/13, 5:10 p.m. PT

In a release today, the Washington State Department of Health has lifted the boil water advisory for residents of southwest King County, specifically Des Moines and Normandy Park, saying, "Lab tests show the water now meets safe drinking water standards."

The statement also says that there have been no reported illnesses linked to the water system, which was found to have potentially harmful E. coli bacteria during a routine water quality test earlier this week.

Customers with questions about their water quality can call the water district at 206.878.7210.

Tougher BUI Laws To Start On Sunday

Jul 25, 2013
KUOW Photo/Meghan Walker

On the weekends, a lot of boaters hit the water which means a lot of drinking off of dry land. But boating under the influence laws are about to get a lot tougher. This Sunday, a new state law will take effect that will make drunk boating as punishable as drunk driving.

The Hidden Swimming Holes In King County

Jul 2, 2013
Flickr Photo/Ian Page-Echols

Temperatures are in the 80s this week and people everywhere are feeling the heat. Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle, a local paddleboard school. He spends summer days hunting for the best swimming holes in the Seattle area. Ross Reynolds talks with Rob Casey about where to go to cool off.

A tragedy in Wenatchee, Wash., is prompting educators there to bring back a high school aquatics program. Starting this fall, high school freshmen in the central Washington city will have to demonstrate they know how to swim.

Formal swimming lessons in Wenatchee had gone by the wayside, as is frequently the case lately in public schools. But the Wenatchee school board is now reversing course.

In November 2011, a freshman named Antonio Reyes drowned in the high school swimming pool.

Yes, It Feels Like Summer, But That River Is Dangerous

May 7, 2013
Flickr photo/Ingrid Taylar

Seattle has seen record temperatures this week and more warm weather is forecasted this week. All the heat is making getting in the water very tempting, but The National Weather Service warns, low water temperatures and swift currents could make it difficult and dangerous to swim. In this segment Ross Reynolds interviews Brent Bower, senior service hydrologist at the National Weather Service,  about how to stay safe in the water.