A broken pipe and failing water pumps have left Warm Springs without a reliable source of clean drinking water since late May. That may change following approval by the Tribal Council to greenlight an emergency repair that could restart the flow of potable water next week.
Warm Springs has been on a boil water notice since May 30, affecting schools, medical facilities, homes and businesses in the community of 3,800 people. Repairing the mainline has been complicated by the location of the break, as it’s believed to be located where the pipe crosses Shitike Creek.
Salem-based Gelco Construction has been hired to do the pipe repair, said Alyssa Macy, chief operations officer for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The Tribal Council has approved the use of $300,000 of tribe funds to pay for the project, a portion of which will be used to pay Gelco.
Macy called it an “emergency fix” and said the repair could take between 24 to 40 hours to complete. The exact start date and time still depends on the availability of materials, she added.
Gelco set out a slightly longer time frame for the repair and water shutdown.
Kevin Monaghan, president of Gelco, expects the repair to be completed sometime between June 21 and 25. Running water will not be available in the community during the repair process, he said.
The repair involves placing a new steel pipe inside the existing pipe. “It will be as good as it was when it was new,” Monaghan said.
The cause of the break is believed to be due to the shifting of the creek, Monaghan said. The portion that is damaged was not underwater when the pipe was first installed and was not designed to be underwater.
Following the emergency repair work, water samples will be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency for testing. Warm Springs residents are advised to continue to boil their water until the results are returned, said Macy.
In addition to fixing the broken pipe, two pressure reducing valves are also in need of repair, said Macy. Repairing the pressure reducing valves will be done as part of a separate project.
“First we need to do the emergency fix and then we will work on the long-term fix,” said Macy. “The longer-term fix is a couple of months out. The emergency fix will hold for a while.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is partly responsible for covering the costs and repairs of the aging water system, said Macy.
“Parts of the water and distribution system do belong to the BIA. We have talked to them, and its part of the challenge of making these repairs,” said Macy. “The tribe has been in long discussions with the BIA.”
The BIA told The Bulletin earlier this month it is not responsible for the repair of the water distribution system at Warm Springs or the costs associated with the repair. The BIA did not respond to further requests for comment.
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