UPDATE 7/20 10 a.m.: The non-essential water use restriction for Haines municipal water customers has been lifted. The boil notice is still in effect, pending test results that are due back Wednesday evening. The notice applies to FAA, Small Tracts, Tower Road and Highland Estates.
Haines Borough Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan says the Lily Lake water plant is running ‘full tilt’ and they have restricted the Crystal Cathedrals well pump to normal operation. “Lily Lake water should be moving into the system over the next couple days,” he says.
Ryan asks anyone who experiences brown water to call 314-0648 and Public Works will flush the hydrant to remove that water from the system.
A boil water notice is still in place for some areas of Haines following a shortage in the municipal water supply. The pipe that connects the borough to its main water source was blocked, resulting in brown water, dry faucets and the boil notice for some residents. But borough staff say the problem is fixed, and things are getting back to normal.
The issues started Sunday when public works employees noticed a decrease in the water flow from Lily Lake to the treatment plant. While they tried to get rid of what appeared to be airlock, the municipal water supply dwindled. Some storage tanks were completely drained.
It’s the limited water flow and low pressure that raised concern for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, which enacted the boil notice.
Haines Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan says they notified DEC of the issues Monday afternoon.
“It’s not that we did a test and found something in the water, it’s DEC’s regulations,” Ryan says. “And the reason is you have water lines flowing through the ground and when you drain them or don’t have any water pressure there’s some concern that surrounding environment could bleed into those water lines.”
The boil water notice applies to Small Tracts, FAA, Tower Road and Highland Estates.
On Monday, the municipality turned on its backup water source – the Crystal Cathedrals well. Its lower-quality water impacts certain businesses, like the Haines Brewery and Port Chilkoot Distillery.
“Well it’s shut down our brewing process, just like that,” said brewery owner Paul Wheeler.
“We’ve pretty much just shut down our production for the whole week,” said distillery owner Heather Shade.
Both businesses depend on a consistent water supply to create spirits and beer. Both say halting production for a week has ripple effects on their business for months.
“It’s a little scary to see where we’re gonna be in another month,” Wheeler said. “Hopefully we have a little extra. But we do have the biggest weekend of the summer coming up.”
Ryan says he knows that supplementing the system with well water has these impacts. He says they tried to avoid it by not turning the Crystal Cathedrals on right away, but waiting that long might have been a mistake.
“In hindsight I think we would’ve turned it on earlier,” says Ryan “It’s just really hard on certain businesses to get well field water. The brewery’s a good example, we don’t want them to have to deal with that. So we probably should’ve turned it on earlier.”
Ryan says turning it on sooner could’ve bought more time and possibly spared some houses’ water outages.
“You know we were limping it along all weekend trying to make water and fix the problem at the same time.”
Cruise ships visiting Haines were also impacted by the water shortage. The 200-person American Spirit was in town Monday.
“They really wanted water, and we said no.”
Ryan says they also warned the ships coming in Wednesday and Thursday that water’s in short supply.
But it might not be for much longer. The Lily Lake treatment plant is getting back up to normal production levels. And the borough may be able to turn on its Piedad Springs water source this week. Piedad was offline while a treatment plant was built. Ryan hopes to taper off the Crystal Cathedrals well water Wednesday.
For now, the boil notice and a non-essential water use restriction are still in place. Ryan says testing results on the boil notice water should be back by Wednesday evening. He hopes to build up enough supply to take down the water use restriction Wednesday morning.
Heather Shade at the distillery says the water fiasco was an example of the importance of flexibility for Haines businesses, “mostly because you never know what’s gonna happen in Haines.”
Updates on the boil notice and water restrictions will be posted at the borough website – hainesalaska.gov.