UPDATE: Water declared safe to drink in Port Townsend following water emergency

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The city of Port Townsend has announced it is again safe to drink the water.

Inspection of the water system indicated that while there was significant discoloration of water in the city’s water distribution system due to the large volume of water flowing through the pipes, there was no microbial contamination of the water supply.

“Working with the Washington State Department of Health and Jefferson County Health since the waterline break, we have completed repairs, flushing and water quality sampling to resolve the colored water problem,” said David Timmons, Port Townsend city manager.

“We’re pleased to be able to lift the boil water advisory.”

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Earlier report:

PORT TOWNSEND — City officials are still asking 6,000 residential and business customers to boil their water today even though a broken downtown water main was fixed Monday night.

Lab test results — which could signal an “all clear” from city and health officials — were expected by midday. Only water customers served by the city of Port Townsend are affected.

Restaurants and other food establishments that use Port Townsend city water were closed by the Jefferson County Public Health Department as a precautionary measure.

They will remain closed until lab results of water tests are returned.

Supermarkets were reporting brisk sales of bottled water.

Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons said the 2 p.m. rupture in the 12-inch pipe near Water and Monroe streets caused the state Department of Health to advise all city water users to drink only boiled water or purchase bottled water until further notice.

Timmons said the advisory was a precaution, and there was likely no cause for alarm.

“There is no known health risk at this time,” Timmons said.

“But we want to be safe and have people boil water until we get test results back.”

City Public Works Director Ken Clow said the break was repaired early Monday evening, restoring water to a four-block area downtown.

The order to boil water was expected to be in effect a minimum of 24 hours, or sometime today, Clow said.

Lab test expected

Water samples were to be tested at a Kitsap County lab, which must clear the water for consumption before the boil order can be lifted, he said.

“When the line broke, it caused the water to flow faster and it stirred up what’s in the pipes,” Clow said.

He said residue that makes the water brown includes rust, sediment in the system and other “biological film.”

“As a precaution we took some samples,” he said.

City public works crews were in the hole where the main broke early Monday night, with lights illuminating their work area. Their work was further dampened by light rainfall.

Monday’s boil-water order was also endorsed by Jefferson County Public Health, with that department’s director, Jean Baldwin, releasing information about the water issue Monday.

Eateries closed

The county closed all food service establishments that use city water because of potential contamination, Baldwin said.

Public Health contacted all establishments individually, advising each of the situation.

Residents of Port Townsend and unincorporated Jefferson County which receive city water are advised to boil their drinking water and water used for cooking, brushing teeth, mixing baby formula, washing dishes and making ice, the state Department of Health said.

It is also recommended shutting off ice machines and discarding ice made with contaminated water.

Timmons said a coupling on the main near Water and Monroe streets burst and caused a flushing of the entire system.

“Because it’s at the lowest point, it flushed the system,” he said.

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Updates on the boil-water advisory will be posted on the PDN’s Web site, peninsuladailynews.com, as breaking news today.

Port Townsend-Jefferson County staffers Jeff Chew and Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or via e-mail at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com or erik.hidle@peninsuladailynews.com.

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