State tells Mabton to not turn off the water

MABTON - Mabton city officials who have been shutting off the city water supply for short periods of time daily to conserve the precious resource have been told to leave the city's water supply on 24-7.

Wednesday, the state Department of Health Water Quality Division issued a demand that the city make its water supply available to the public throughout each and every day.

"We've talked with the city officials and they will no longer be turning off the water," said Mike Wilson, a Department of Health regional engineer for Yakima County.

The major concern for public safety centers on the potential for cross connections in the water supply, which could lead to contaminates entering the city water supply, Wilson explained.

He said a citizen's complaint brought the small community's water situation to his office's attention. City crews took samples of the water supply Wednesday to check for any dangers, Wilson said.

"The results should be available by late Thursday afternoon," he said.

Wilson noted that the city is already testing its water twice a month, as required by the State Health Department. He said the extra test was taken in order to eliminate any concern that the water may be contaminated due to recent city actions.

The city water department, which has been experiencing troubles with water pressure, are attempting to preserve the city wells' booster pumps by not letting the reservoirs go dry, explained Mabton City Administrator Ildia Jackson. She said crews were turning off the city water supply for several hours each night in order to allow the wells to recycle.

Noting it was not an ideal solution to the situation, she said she was disappointed with the way the Department of Health has handled the situation.

"To give the impression that we are not already testing the water is an unnecessary scare tactic," Jackson said. "We test for coliforms every month and had already decided to do an extra test series," she said. "That was our decision and not the order of Department of Health," she stressed.

Jackson said she told Wilson that the city would not shut down the city system unless the water level goes below 10 feet.

"We can't let the tower go dry," she said.

The city attempted in late June to begin requiring citizens to voluntarily conserve water when officials first noticed significant drops in the city water pressure.

The citizens were asked to limit the use of outside water for irrigating lawns and gardens. But in early July, city officials found the conservation efforts were not working.

In an effort to save the city booster pumps from being damaged during the heavy water demand period, the Council decided to try shutting off the water supply for a few hours each night, explained Jackson.

In early July work crews began turning off the city water supply between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. in order to cope with maintaining water supplies and water pressure in the city lines.

Jackson stressed that for the time being the city is not under an official mandate to do any extra testing as a result of the water shut-offs.

Last week, city residents took their concerns about health and safety to the city council, asking the city to find another way to deal with the current water dilemma.

The state's intervention comes after nearly six weeks of the city trying to deal with the water situation.

In the meantime, the city continues to go through the steps to get approval for drilling a new city well, which it hopes to have on line by spring 2005.

. Julia Hart can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail her at jhart@eaglenewspapers.com

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