On Thursday morning, May 24, City of Bellingham Public Works crews responded to a watermain break at Walnut and Monroe streets that was “highly unusual” and wide-reaching. After repairing the damage, City crews began flushing all affected pipes. By Friday morning, that flushing was complete.
Four neighborhoods were impacted by a break that produced cloudy water from the large pipes that serve the Sunnyland, Columbia, Lettered Streets, and Cornwall Park areas.
While main breaks do occur within the City's more than 400 miles of water lines, normally where pipes are very old, a break affecting so many water customers is quite rare. When breaks occur – similar to when the City flushes water mains each year, but with more velocity – the naturally occurring mineral deposits within pipes is pushed out by water rushing with more speed than normal, causing murky water. The water is not unsafe, but can soil laundry and leave sediment in toilets and bathtubs.
We understand and regret the inconvenience to our water customers. Fortunately, this is very infrequent occurrence. Hundreds of miles of water line deliver clean, safe water to more than 90,000 people with 11-12 million gallons of water 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The lines are well-maintained and are on schedule for replacement as City funds allow.
Q: What do I do if murky water comes out of my tap?
A: The first thing to do is run your hose or cold water taps (and without screens, such as on bath tubs) until the water clears. While the sediment you see is not unsafe, it's certainly preferable to use clear water. If the water does not clear after several minutes, contact Public Works (360/778-7700) to let us know.
Q: I live outside those four neighborhoods, but I had murky water too. Why?
A: There were separate, unrelated fire hydrant flushing occurring other places in Bellingham on Thursday that also produced murky water. These were either repairs or scheduled flushing that the City publicized earlier.
Q: Before I knew about water, I washed clothes and notice now that they're now brown. What can I do?
A: A product called Red-B-Gone that can remove the rusty coloring. It is available for purchase or from the Public Works – Operations facility on Pacific Street during normal business hours.
Q: We noticed murky water at Bellingham High School this morning, wasn't that water flushed?
A: Yes, the City water mains serving the area had been flushed. However, large structures with many taps that had not been used or flushed may see cloudy water until those taps have been run awhile.
Note: for “breaking news” (as this was at the time) we will utilize the City's Facebook page to ensure the information is available broadly and can be updated as needed.