Due to an issue with the City of Salem’s new water system, a boil water advisory has been issued that might last through the middle of the week, forcing changes to local schools. 

As a result in the drop in water pressure and the boil water advisory issued by the City of Salem and the Town of New Pekin, East Washington Schools will be closed on Monday (January 31). 

Although it will be an E-Learning day for students, the school will be working to secure enough bottled water so the school can open on Tuesday and have enough clean water for students and kitchen staff. 

According to the school, the Town of New Pekin said the boil water advisory could be lifted as soon as Wednesday. 

Salem Community Schools will be in session tomorrow, but due to the boil water advisory school officials are asking parents, if possible, to send 1-2 bottles of water with each student.

The school will be purchasing water to have on hand for those who cannot. 

West Washington Schools were not affected by the water issues. 

Residents are asked to boil all water that is used in cooking or drinking at least 5 minutes until further notice. 

According to press releases sent to local media on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the issues began on Saturday, although alerts from the city’s phone, text and email service, began sending messages earlier in the week about low pressure to the North of Salem. 

Sunday’s release noted that “pump limitation[s] and malfunction[s], [led to] water levels in storage [becoming] short.  With crews of engineers working non-stop since the issue was first discovered [on Saturday], a resolution has been found.  As water consumption is occurring, storage and pressure are improving. The very cold temperatures have made quick progress more difficult.”

A ground-breaking was held in June 2019 on the replacement of the John Hay Treatment Plant and work was due to be done by Spring 2021. The original facility was built in 1968 to increase Salem’s water supply. 

According to the City of Salem’s website, the new facility is rated at 3 million gallons per day.

This plant is rated as a 210-Acre supply lake facility and typically pumps 2 to 2.4 million gallons per day.

Also, work was underway to raise the level of nearby Lake John Hay to increase the amount of surface water that could be used. 

The City worked with the USDA Rural Development and refinanced $1.9 million and received a two percent 40-year-loan from the USDA to pay for the $15.2 million plant. 

“Our long-term financial investment in the plant means safe and clean water will continue to be delivered to a total of 17,202 water customers. The effectiveness and efficiency of the water plant will not only enhance our residents’ quality of life, but also will serve as a critically important piece of our quality of place infrastructure,” said Salem Mayor Justin Green. 

Last July another issue occurred in which Green explained, “Our water plant had an adverse issue.. that was fixed by the crew and engineers on-site. This was an internal issue with a chlorine bleach pump feed and was discovered and addressed…”

Green said then that the plant did not lose disinfection and only suffered from low volume, but resulted in boil water advisories to Salem, East Washington Rural Water Corporation and the Town of New Pekin.