AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. --- Airway Heights city officials said Wednesday night the water that has been contaminated in their city system will not be cleared for at least 10 days. Originally, officials had predicted three to four days until they resolved the issue.
Tuesday, Airway Heights and Fairchild Airforce Base said preliminary groundwater sampling results for two water wells indicate high levels of two different acids (PFOS and PFOA). The acids are classified by the EPA as emerging contaminants and are present in common household items and heat and fire resistant products, including aqueous film forming foam formulations that were used by the Air Force in fire trucks from 1970-2016 including those at Fairchild AFB. The air force is validating the findings and they expect to provide final results to the city within two to three weeks.
In the meantime, Airway Heights and Fairchild AFB have been distributing water to people in the area. So far, 40,000 gallons of water has been distributed both at a pickup point and delivered to those who can’t leave their homes.
Albert Tripp, the Airway Heights city manager, said the reason for the delay in getting the water cleared is because they must treat the water before discharging it from the system.
“The extended time frame is because we need to treat that water that’s currently in the system before we discharge it,” he explained. “When the contents is [sic] contaminated, you have to deal with it differently and so that takes a longer period of time to literally take those contaminants out as you’re evacuating the system.”
Tripp said there is about 6 million gallons of water in the Airway Heights water system.
“We don’t know enough to identify an option to discharge,” said Diana Washington, from the EPA. “We do consider that constituent will need to be treated before it is discharged to the ground or the environment and so we’re working with the city to identify ways to proceed cleaning the distribution system.”
City leaders said Tuesday bottled water will be given out behind the Yokes at 12825 W. 17th. Officials ask that you bring a driver's license or a piece of mail to verify your address.
Officials said tap water is safe for activities where water will not be ingested such as bathing, doing laundry and washing dishes. Residents and businesses in Airway Heights that are east of Hayford Road are not affected because their utility service is through Spokane. Authorities said reverse osmosis and carbon filters have been shown to be effective in reducing or removing the two acids from drinking water.
City leaders said they will be taking steps to remove the contaminants from the water. They will cease operations of the affected wells and will use the city’s water system inter-tie connection with the City of Spokane. City leaders have also initiated a flushing routine to remove water with higher concentrations from the system. They hope to reduce the levels of the contaminants from the city’s water system to safe levels within the next three to four days.
Officials said long term projects to reduce levels in the city’s water system may include the installation of water treatment filtration systems on each well with elevated levels, and seeking alternative sources of water such as additional water from Spokane.