The Warm Springs water crisis became more serious for residents Tuesday, when water was shut off, as a result of a break in a main waterline announced on May 31.
"Tribal staff, state and federal partners are working to determine the next steps to repair the main line crossing, which will take up to a week or longer and will result in a loss of water to most of the Warm Springs Agency area," said Alyssa Macy, CEO for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, in a press release on Friday.
The break, which occurred in a line that passes under Shitike Creek, resulted in the Warm Springs Tribal Council passing an emergency disaster declaration.
"The declaration provides an option to the tribes to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds to help with the repair and impacts to the community and local businesses," said Macy.
The day before the declaration, the tribes had issued its fourth boil-water notice in the past six months, as a result of low-pressure issues in the Agency District water lines.
According to Macy, the break in the line is located in Shitike Creek, beyond the location where three previous repairs have been completed.
"Failing pressure-reducing valves in the distribution system are also compounding the issues at the Shitike Creek crossing," she noted.
On Friday, the tribes implemented their emergency operation plan to coordinate repair and services to the community.
Certain businesses and residences were notified that they could expect to experience total water outages, beginning early this week. Warm Springs K-8 Academy, the Warm Springs Early Childhood Education Center, Indian Health Services, the Warm Springs Health and Wellness Center, High Lookee Lodge, the Warm Springs Senior Center, Boys and Girls Club, Museum at Warm Springs, Indian Head Casino, Warm Springs Composites, tribal buildings, and local businesses and residences were all warned that they would be affected.
All residents have been advised that they should boil their water until further notice in the Warm Springs Agency area, which includes Kah-Nee-Ta, Wolfe Point, Sunnyside, Upper Dry Creek, Miller Heights, Campus Area, West Hills, Tenino Valley, Tenino Apartments, Elliott Heights, senior housing, trailer courts, and Greeley Heights.
The tribes have set up bottled water distribution centers at the Warm Springs Community Center and the old Warm Springs Elementary School library.
Also, a complete ban on burning is in effect throughout the reservation, due to the dry conditions and water shortage.
Warm Springs K-8 reopens
Warm Springs K-8 Academy, as well as Warm Springs Early Childhood Education Center were closed Thursday and Friday, but Warm Springs K-8 reopened on Monday, with port-a-potties and hand-washing stations outside the school, and drinking water trucked in, as part of a backup plan.
"Over the weekend, we made arrangements in case we didn't have enough water pressure for some of the systems, but we now have water pressure," said Ken Parshall, superintendent of School District 509-J. "The community is still on a boil water notice, so we're doing meal prep at Madras High School, and we're supplying bottled water for students and staff."
"We brought in some water tanks in order to maintain flushable toilets, but water pressure is back, so all our systems are operational," he said. "We'll leave them onsite in case there's an issue between now and the end of school."
The last day for students is next Tuesday, June 11.
Indian Head remains open
Indian Head Casino announced Monday that it would remain open.
"Our community is facing a difficult situation," said Belinda Chavez, director of marketing for the casino. "With support from local utilities, loyal vendors and sanitary service professionals, we can remain open and operational, with access to safe, clean water throughout the casino."
The casino's Tule Grill and 777's Lounge will offer guests extended hours of service, she said. "However, the Cottonwood Restaurant will be closed until the Warm Springs water problem has been mitigated."
Resources are in place to provide safe drinking water, coffee, beverages and restroom facilities for casino guests, Chavez noted. "In addition, the facility's fire suppression system is being manually pressurized and is fully functional."
"We hope for a quick repair and full restoration of Warm Springs water services," Chavez said. "And in the interim, we want our guests to know we welcome them to visit us, dine with us and enjoy our many entertainment offerings during this community hardship."
On Friday night, the Warm Springs Detention Facility transferred all its inmates to the Jefferson County Correctional Facility. As of Tuesday afternoon, the jail was housing 21 inmates from Warm Springs — 12 male and nine female.
The tribes' radio station, KWSO 91.9 FM, and the tribes' Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CTWSO, in addition to the tribes' emergency text message system, will continue to provide updates about water distribution sites and anticipated timelines for repairs and water outages.
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