Water was restored to the lower end of Whaleshead Resort north of Brookings last week — but residents hoping to see clear fluid pouring from their taps were taken aback to see dark, muddy water some compared to the contaminated water of Flint, Michigan.
The problem this time originated at the pumphouse, which was inundated by Whaleshead Creek when the winter storm of Feb. 25 flooded pumps and treatment facilities and shorted out the electrical controls so water couldn’t be drawn from wells to be treated, said Anthony Fields, the planning, protection and certification unit manager for Oregon Health Association.
“Complicating matters, the electrical equipment can’t be evaluated or repaired until the water subsides,” Fields said. “Water system employees were able to clean out the reservoirs and have made progress on cleaning the clear well, but the turbidity is still too high for the water to be treated sufficiently to be made potable — even if the system’s treatment facilities were fully operational.”
Management at the resort could not be reached for comment.
Those in the lower part of the park remain on boil-water advisories.
Curry Community Health was alerted to the problem as well, but that organization monitors groundwater; surface water — which is what Whaleshead Resort uses — is monitored by the state said CEO Ken Dukek.
And there’s no estimated time as to when the situation can be rectified, Fields said. It comes less than a month after a pipe at the upper end of the resort sprung a leak; resort officials were unable to find someone to repair that for about a week, leaving people without water altogether.
As of Tuesday, the water level at the pumphouse had receded and water was being pumped from the well now, said Oregon Health Authority’s Drinking Water Services Department water resource specialist Betsy Parry.
“It isn’t feasible for the water system to (be) repaired until the floodwaters have receded sufficiently to allow the pumphouse and wells to be evaluated and repaired,” he said. “It is also very likely that any water coming from the taps in the affected area will continue to appear cloudy until everything can be cleaned and sanitized, and more especially, until the turbidity is low enough that the water system’s treatment is able to make the water potable again.”
Parry’s duties are limited, however, to ensuring water is safe to drink. To that end, management at Whaleshead has provided her information regarding turbidity levels in the water since the storm.
“That’s really as far as our authority goes,” she said. “It’s kind of up to them to resolve. If it doesn’t meet the standards, that’s when it goes to the boil advisory. I totally understand the residents; they’re getting frustrated.”
The most recent problem at the resort is driven by the turbidity in the water due to the storm, Parry said. To lift the boil water advisory, those levels need to drop back down to a baseline — they’re already halfway there, she said reports from management indicate — adequate levels of residual chlorine must be in the water going to consumers and coliform must be eliminated.
The resort has taken readings every day in February, she said, but she hasn’t received the report yet. Parry has also heard resort officials are interesting in having a feasbility study conducted to streamline and modernize the entire system.
“This has given them a lot to look at,” she said.