UPDATE: City lifts water emergency this morning

Islanders and businesses can resume normal water usage.

Mercer Islanders and businesses can resume normal water usage after city officials lifted the water emergency this morning as levels rose overnight to surpass 20 feet in the city’s reservoir tanks. There is now sufficient water in the tanks to safely support residents’ needs, according to a press release issued at about 7:15 a.m.

“Water quality and safety continue to meet all standards and Islanders should not notice any changes to their water service as normal use resumes,” said the city, thanking everyone for their water conservation efforts during a difficult last few days and avoiding a Precautionary Boil Water Notice.

The city and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) will work together to understand the cause of the emergency, in which two valves malfunctioned on the city’s water supply line and required repairment, and how SPU can avoid a similar emergency in the future. The issue arose during SPU’s planned work on the system that provides water to the city.

SPU crews completed work on one valve at about 8:30 a.m. on April 20 on the band of a 24-inch pipe, and workers finished repairing another valve — which malfunctioned in a different location as service restoration began that morning — at about 1 p.m. later that day. It took an immense effort to restore the water supply line, the city said.

Following the initial evaluation, the city plans to share a comprehensive recap with the community detailing the copious steps it took to resolve the situation. Photos and videos will be included in the report.

The city expressed its appreciation to the many community members, volunteers, partner agencies and staff that have responded to the emergency.

SPU issued a statement on April 21 to thank residents for conserving water over the last few days.

“SPU is investigating what caused the malfunction. The investigation will help us determine if we need to do any further inspection of valves or other water infrastructure in the area in the coming weeks,” SPU said in a statement.

On the day of the water emergency lift, plenty of residents visited the city’s Leap for Green Earth Day Fair at the community and event center.

The Reporter spoke with some Islanders about their experiences during the water crisis and how the city handled the situation.

“We really did try to conserve — avoid showers and we didn’t do laundry, and I think we did one batch of dishes last night because we were pretty desperate. It was OK. It was a little frustrating, but I was more worried about having to do the boil. No major crisis,” said Lily Barrett, adding that she appreciated the city’s updates on SPU’s progress every 12 hours or so.

After Barrett’s family learned of the lift, “We immediately took a shower,” she said.

Wayne Perryman noted that the crisis had little effect on him because he showers following his workouts at LA Fitness in Bellevue. While shopping at Walmart, he did purchase two big cases of water bottles to get him through the week.

While watching her daughter and a friend romp around the Taking Action! fair, Nicole Wheat said that her family was fine refraining from doing laundry and not showering for several days. It was inconvenient to see a big pile of unwashed dishes, but it wasn’t the end of the world, she said.

“My daughter was happy to miss a bath, honestly,” Wheat said. “I’m from South Africa originally, so I’m used to random infrastructure failure, we were comfortable. This morning we did laundry when we got the note (regarding the lift).”

Wheat said her daughter had questions about the situation. Mom explained to her young one that they would place a bowl in the bathroom sink and just use minimal water to wash their hands.

While she was grateful for the city’s communication with residents, Wheat said that she and some others on social media were a bit confused as to when the emergency arose and perhaps the city could have alerted Islanders to begin conserving water earlier in the week.

On Facebook, the city said that it began notifying the community as soon as they were informed about the water issue.

David and Nicole Hogan, who brought their two children to the earth fair, said they also tried to conserve as much water as possible. Like the others, that meant not using the dishwasher, not wasting water when hand-washing and no baths for a day.

“We hope to not deal with it again,” David said.

Added Nicole: “Generally, we try not to waste a lot of water. But especially with the young kids, like not having the water faucet on longer than it needed to be (during the crisis). We didn’t make pasta or anything that required a lot of water. We drank milk, or we made sure we were drinking everything in the water bottle before we filled it up again, so little changes like that. It was relatively quick and painless for us.”

They also felt the city did a solid job communicating with residents on social media, but added that they failed to receive email alerts.

If residents or businesses have questions and need to report any water issues, they can contact the city’s customer service team at (206) 275-7600 or customerservice@mercerisland.gov.