Lake Drawn Water Public Health Alert

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For Residents Who Draw Their Drinking Water Directly From Lake Whatcom

A wastewater system spill has created a potential health risk to residents who withdraw their drinking water directly from Lake Whatcom, especially those households without a disinfection treatment system. As a result, the Whatcom County Health Department and Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District strongly recommend that residents who draw their drinking water directly from Lake Whatcom bring their water to a rolling boil for at least one minute before consuming.  For those households with a disinfection treatment system, it is recommended that the treatment system be inspected to ensure it is working properly.

Drinking water customers of Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District or the City of Bellingham do NOT need to boil their water.

On Thursday, July 20, 2023, at approximately 7:45 a.m. the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District received a report of an overflowing manhole located on Lake Louise Road. District staff mobilized to the site and confirmed that the manhole is associated with the District’s sanitary sewage conveyance system. The manhole houses an air relief valve associated with the 14-inch diameter, high density polyethylene (HDPE) Lake Louise Road sewer forcemain. The manhole is located approximately 2,250 feet northwest of the District’s Beaver Sewer Lift Station. Overflows occurred solely when the Beaver Sewer Lift Station actively pumped wastewater. District staff began contacting on-call tanker truck and traffic control services to assist, as well as began setting up temporary piping to divert flows away from the Lake Louise Road sewer forcemain to the District’s Lake Whatcom Boulevard sewer forcemain. Flow diversion was implemented at approximately 8:40 a.m., allowing for pumping from the Beaver Sewer Lift Station—as well as all sewage overflow—to cease. Repairs are ongoing as of the issuance of this release.

Inspection of the overflow confirmed that untreated wastewater reached ditches on both sides of Lake Louise Road, which flow to a drainage located approximately 150-feet southeast of the manhole that flows to Beaver Creek (a tributary of Lake Whatcom). Estimated volume of the wastewater release is unknown at this time (estimates will be developed once staff have time to review sewage control system data documenting sewer lift station operation).

All surface waters can contain disease-causing viruses and bacteria at any time.  Accordingly, the District and the Whatcom County Health Department also strongly recommend that anyone withdrawing water from Lake Whatcom through a private system treat their water at all times.  Minimum treatment should include disinfection to kill bacteria and viruses. For information about drinking water for homes who withdraw directly from the lake, contact Patrick Hull at Whatcom County Health Department at 360.778.6000.

The Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District encourages customers with questions to call 360.734.9224.