Water restrictions in the city of Newport are expected to last at least one more week, as officials are still trying to figure out what is causing the problem with the city’s water filtration system.
The city calls it a “very serious situation.” Since late last week, residents and businesses have been asked to cut back their water usage as the city’s water treatment plant is struggling to keep up with demand.
Most outdoor water usage is banned and major commercial water users such as fish cleaning plants have been ordered closed.
Newport’s Public Works Director, Tim Gross, told city councilors that his team has been working around the clock to try to figure out why the city’s water filters aren’t working correctly. “I mean, there’s literally not a rock that we have not turned over to try to figure out what is going on here," he said. "We have no good explanation.”
The city has ordered new filters, which are expected to arrive by Thursday. They'll take up to four days to install, but Gross says that might not actually solve the problem. "We're hoping to get better answers on that in a couple of days," he said.
The city is also considering whether to bring in portable water filtration units that would be mounted on flatbed trailers, but Gross said it's a very expensive option. Newport also has the ability to use water from a neighboring water district, Seal Rock, but it's not nearly enough to cover the gap.
Gross said the water that comes out of taps is safe to drink. But the plant isn’t able to keep up with normal demand.
"We would never discharge water to the distribution system that was unsafe," he said. "It's good water. It's just less water."
In addition to spreading the word to residents through social media channels, the city is renting two digital message boards to inform people entering the city that water usage restrictions are in place.
In fact, the city was already renting the message boards to inform people that face coverings are required in all indoor public places. The message on the signs will be updated with information about the water emergency.