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Shorewood residents left high and dry - Water stops flowing three times in two weeks

By Ruth Longoria

About 2,000 Island residents were without water last Wednesday for the third time in two weeks.

Residents of the Shorewood Apartments had their water turned off for about six hours Tuesday, April 26. They were also without water for several hours Wednesday, April 27, after a private cable contractor bored through a 10-inch underground pipe that supplies water to the complex. The water also stopped flowing for several hours about two weeks ago during an unrelated scheduled maintenance activity that required water shutoff to some neighborhoods, including Shorewood.

Shorewood is the only part of the Island that does not get its water from the City of Mercer Island. Instead, the apartment community is supplied directly from Seattle Utility District, which also supplies the rest of the Island through the city water lines.

Although Shorewood management placed door hanger notices to residents Tuesday alerting them to the problem and the city's role in turning off the water, the notices were a bit misleading, said Terry Smith, utilities operations manager for the City of Mercer Island.

``The city was in no way to blame for the outage,'' Smith said. ``We knew Shorewood was up against a wall, so we were just helping out.''

At about noon Tuesday, a resident in the 8800 block of S.E. 37th Street called the city about a water leak. A contractor for Comcast Cable had pierced through a 10-inch water pipe with an underground device that bores holes. Once at the site, city workers were able to determine that the pipe was one that feeds exclusively into Shorewood, and, therefore, not a city line, Smith said.

After spending about an hour on the telephone with Shorewood management and various pipe fitting suppliers, Smith discovered that there was not a pipe immediately available to the apartment complex other than a fitting that the city owned, which would work temporarily to stop the leak. He was, however, able to locate a company that could make a fitting for Shorewood to eventually use to replace the interim fitting.

Because Shorewood is not used to handling water line problems, Smith said, he and about eight city workers helped out and were able to have the water turned back on for residents by 6 p.m.

But the saga didn't end there. At about 1 p.m. Wednesday, Smith received a call saying that the temporary fitting had begun to leak.

``My strong suspicion is that they are about to be without water again,'' Smith said Wednesday afternoon.

A representative for Shorewood said the problem was being permanently fixed Wednesday afternoon by a crew of emergency workers who specifically deal with fixing asbestos pipes, which is the type of 40-plus-year-old damaged pipe. Most of the pipes at Shorewood have been in place since when the property was used as a naval officer housing facility, said Todd Bacon, a representative for Shorewood.

Although he didn't know who will pay for the repairs, as the pipe was damaged by a Comcast Cable worker, Bacon said he's confident the pipe could and would be repaired within 24 hours.

``The crew will work through the night if that's what it takes, we want to make sure the residents have their water back on as soon as possible.''

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