Do you take for granted that safe, clean water will flow when you turn on the tap? They don’t assume that in Warm Springs.
On Monday, Oregon U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden visited Warm Springs to celebrate $28 million in federal funds to replace the Tribe’s 41-year-old water treatment plant.
A dozen boil water notices have been issued in Warm Springs in the past five years due to broken water pipes, a computer operating on software that no longer exists, and a fire that damaged pumps.
“Twenty-seven new water pressure control valves have been put in place, greatly reducing the number of times the pipes break or split. So that’s a big step forward,” said Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. “This treatment plant is going to be another big step forward.”
>>> Central Oregon Daily News is on YouTube. Click here to subscribe and share our videos.
RELATED: $2 million for affordable housing coming to Warm Springs Reservation
RELATED: Madras High School creates Native American tribal room
A new water treatment plant will be designed and built adjacent to the existing facility.
Until it’s ready, some federal money will be directed to maintaining the existing treatment plant and the miles of pipes that distribute water to nearly 4,000 Warm Springs residents.
“In the past, our friends would test the water with their hands. If it didn’t taste very good, they’d say, ‘The seniors aren’t going to like it today.’ We can do better,” said Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “What you are seeing is an immediate bit of progress.”
The last boil water notice in Warm Springs six months ago resulted from a contractor breaking a water line, not a failure of the system itself.
“We are going to design a really good system to clean out that water so it’s safe for our community members,” said Jonathan Smith, Warm Springs Tribal Chairman. “We are talking about microplastics, pharmaceuticals. We have to make sure the system is designed to mitigate all that stuff.”
Civil engineers with Indian Health Services estimate it will take up to two years to design the new water treatment plant and then another two or three years to build it.
The new water treatment plant should provide clean, good-tasting water for 50 years.