Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
The broken water pipe in Warm Springs that resulted in a multiweek boil water notice for the community was fixed ahead of schedule Wednesday morning. However, many Warm Springs residents will still lack clean running water, likely until next week, when tests for bacteria are completed.
Workers with Salem-based Gelco Construction shut off water at 5 a.m. Tuesday, meaning downtown Warm Springs, also called the campus area, and the Miller Heights neighborhood were without any running water, according to Alyssa Macy, the chief operations officer for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Macy said the shut-off was expected to affect the entire community south of U.S. Highway 26, but the tribes’ public utilities staff contained the shut-off to just a couple neighborhoods.
Water access, including bottled water and showers, was available downtown during the water shut-off, according to Macy.
The water problem is the result of a broken main line and two failing water pumps on the reservation water system. Warm Springs has faced four boil water notices in the past six months due to the aging system.
To fix the pipe, Gelco construction workers shoved a 6-inch steel pipe inside the broken 14-inch steel pipe where it runs underneath Shitike Creek, according to Keith Whisenhunt, the project’s engineer. On each side of the 85-foot-long pipe within a pipe is a new 12-inch pipe. According to Whisenhunt, a 12-inch pipe was easier to buy on short notice than a 14-inch pipe, and it is more likely to resist movement and water force from the creek.
The new 12-inch pipe extends about 30 feet on the south side of the pipe within a pipe and about 200 feet on the north side. At each end, it connects to the existing 14-inch pipe.
Originally, the project was expected to take five days, but Whisenhunt said his team intentionally planned to fix the pipe ahead of schedule.
“When we came out here, we had the script to get this thing done,” he said. “Everybody did their part, there was no drama, all the thinking had been done before we showed up.”
After construction workers completed work on the pipe at 11 a.m. Wednesday, they handed the pipeline back to Warm Springs staff, which will disinfect the pipe, according to Barry Buchanan, a principal consultant on the project. Buchanan said tribal staff will need to run two tests on the pipe, each which can take a couple days to wait for results. Because of this, a boil water notice will likely continue until early next week, he said.
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