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Cold weather causes system breakdown at prison

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Physical plant inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, like those shown above working on a planting project earlier this fall, were put to work this week repairing the prisons frozen wastewater disposal system. Things are now back to normal. But for several days last week Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville was far from that status.

Routine activities were canceled Dec. 9 at Coffee Creek following problems with the prison's wastewater disposal system. From there, it took another 36 hours to identify and repair damage caused by frozen pipes and broken equipment.

Visiting and all other inmate activities were canceled Dec. 9 following the discovery of backed-up sewer pipes. Coffee Creek Spokeswoman Vicki Reynolds told KOIN 6 that evening that some of the prison's pipes had simply "frozen up."

As sewage backed up and the system was shut down, portable toilets were brought in later the same night. Making matters worse, an auger broke down that could have been used by prison physical plant staff to clear drain blockage.

"It was the auger," Reynolds said. "It helps tamp things down or push them along, and it was that that was broken. So we had to get new parts to fix it, and as soon as we got the new parts, it was fixed."

Running water was also affected, Reynolds said, something confirmed by family members of current Coffee Creek inmates. One even emailed the Spokesman to say that inmates were reportedly prevented from bathing or even brushing their teeth while the system was undergoing repairs.

Reynolds said the water supply was shut down at the same time as the sewer system in order to prevent any further problems.

"The water was still running," she told the Spokesman. "But because the sewer wasn't running we didn't want to risk anything further."

Portable hand washing stations were trucked in, she said, along with portable showers that were used while the water was shut off. The portable toilets, she added, were placed outside the minimum and medium security buildings and inmates had to venture out in freezing temperatures to use them.

"The portable toilets were out in the yard," she said. "And the staff were affected the same way as the inmates."

The necessary repairs were completed last Wednesday around 5 p.m. and routine prison operations resumed.

"We have visiting today and all inmate activities and volunteers now can come in," Reynolds said the following day. "Everything is back to normal."

Coffee Creek opened in 2001 and now houses more than 1,200 female inmates as Oregon's only women's prison. It also provides intake and evaluation of all female and male inmates committed to state custody and houses up to 400 or more individuals in this category at any given time.



Local Weather

Fair

77°F

Wilsonville

Fair

Humidity: 43%

Wind: 10 mph

  • 1 Sep 2014

    Mostly Clear 80°F 55°F

  • 2 Sep 2014

    Partly Cloudy 78°F 51°F