News, Timber, utilities

Timber grapples with water outage

Residents in Timber are without water after the volunteer-run Timber Water Association was forced to abruptly shut off the tap Sunday.

The cause, board members said on the community’s Facebook group, was ultimately due to recent days-long power failures and broken pipes in Timber following the icestorm and then windstorm that battered the region last month.

In a phone call with the Banks Post, TWA board member Jeff Engle confirmed the chain of events that left the community without water.

“The plant has sustained significant damage from electrical power surges during the power outages,” a TWA volunteer said Saturday while issuing a boil water notice.

The issue was made worse by multiple leaks at homes in Timber due to damage from the ice storm in late December that preceded the wind storm.

Engle said a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) that controls the water plant’s pumps was damaged by power surges, and while a replacement part was ordered, and now installed, the wait time was longer than expected for the part to arrive.

Multiple trips a day to the water plant by volunteers to affect repairs kept them limping along, Engle said, but that all came to a gushing halt Sunday.

“One of the residents had a “tank buster” of a leak and drained well over half of the reserve through their house. This event put is in critical shape,” he said in a social media post.

Warnings to conserve water didn’t yield enough results, and homes at higher elevations began to lose water entirely. The decision to shut off water came because some of the repairs rely on the plant having some water, and homes were cut off from water on an emergency basis, Engle said.

Since then, volunteers—the TWA is a co-op run entirely by community members, with no paid staff—have been juggling their day jobs and the demands of the repairs at the water plant, which pulls water from the Nehalem River.

Several Timber residents expressed dissatisfaction with the communication in advance of the shutoff from the TWA, which provides water to dozens of homes in the Timber “proper” area.

Engle said that much of the work to complete repairs was expected to be done by Monday’s end, and that, if all went well, tap water could run again as early as Tuesday.

A boil water notice will remain, however, until the system is fully up and running and a lab in Portland can test water samples and ensure they meet standards set by the state of Oregon.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a listing of what to do in the event of a boil water notice online.
In part, the federal agency advised the following:

  • Use bottled or boiled water for drinking, and to prepare and cook food.
  • If bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute. After boiling, allow the water to cool before use.
  • Boil tap water even if it is filtered (for example, by a home water filter or a pitcher that filters water).
  • Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator.
  • Breastfeeding is the best infant feeding option. If you formula feed your child, provide ready-to-use formula, if possible

The Timber Water Association meets monthly, and is scheduled to meet next on Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m., at the plant on Cochran Road. Engle encourages those who wish to volunteer to help out to show up at that meeting or contact a local water board member.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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