Newport restores water to commercial users

Pumps have been installed to move water from Newport’s Big Creek Reservoir to the mobile water treatment filters the city has rented in order to maintain water levels. Work is continuing in an effort to determine the cause of the fouling of the membrane water filters and restore function at the city’s water treatment plant. (Photos by Cheri Brubaker)

Fishing industry expresses gratitude

NEWPORT — “The good news is, we’re up and running again in Newport,” said Lori Steele, executive director of West Coast Seafood Processors. “It’s really good news.”

As part of the city of Newport’s declared water emergency, production at fish processing plants on the Bayfront had been halted. This action was taken because the city could not supply its industrial users with water, due to the unexpected fouling of membrane filters at the city’s water treatment plant.

“There were concerns that we were going to shut down longer than just through the holiday weekend,” Steele told the News-Times early Tuesday afternoon. “There were financial losses and disruption in the fishing community when this happened, but we got though it.”

Steele said the water-related restrictions and closures have been just one of many very different challenges this industry has had to face in the last few months. “It’s a resilient industry. We took a hit, but we kept the fishery up and running,” she said.

In a notice to the Newport City Council on Monday, July 6, Acting City Manager Peggy Hawker wrote, “Several positive things related to problems at the city’s water treatment plant occurred over the past week. First of all, the plant has been able to meet current water demand. Second, the fish processors, Pacific Seafood and Bornstein, have been advised that they can operate their plants at full production.”

Hawker wrote it was expected that the processing of hake and shrimp at the plants would occur starting Tuesday. She reported Tuesday afternoon that water was fully restored to all commercial users, and all are operating as usual.

The temporary water production trailers arrived in Newport over the weekend. On Tuesday afternoon, they were connected but not yet operational. Work was being done on the connections between the temporary units and the main plant late Tuesday, Hawker explained.

Heather Mann, of Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, said early Tuesday afternoon, “Shrimp and whiting processing are restarting today. So after being shut down for more than a week, it will be great for our fishing businesses to get the processing side up and running again.”

Mann was appreciative of the city of Newport’s response to the crisis, restoring water earlier than was estimated. “A huge thanks to city public works director and staff for working non-stop to fix the issue. I hope the fix holds after today. With all the challenges that fishermen have faced this year, it will be good to get to some semblance of normalcy,” she said.

“They worked all day yesterday,” Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer said of the efforts to connect the mobile filters, which look like semi-truck trailers parked at the water treatment plant. “An electrician ran two major electric panels to power the mobile units.”

Sawyer said they were doing some testing Tuesday morning, making sure everything is functional before sending water through the system for treatment.

Sawyer also noted the fouled membrane water filter has been received by Pall Corporation, the manufacturer, which will perform diagnostics and testing. “We’re hoping they can figure out what’s causing this,” Sawyer said, adding it isn’t yet known whether the issue is biological or mechanical. 

“Quite frankly, I think this is a very unusual event,” Sawyer said, pointing out that there haven’t been reports of it happening elsewhere.

When asked about the cost of the mobile treatment units, Sawyer said, “A lot. Unfortunately, this is going to be very expensive.” He cited the cost of the mobile units, overtime for workers, hiring of consultant engineers and the electrician. “We anticipate the cost is going to be very high. We have applied for an emergency federal grant that can pay for an event like this.” 

Sawyer said city officials are confident the city meets the requirements of the grant. They are also hopeful that some costs will be covered the warranty remaining on the filters.

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