700 Tulalip homes have faucets run dry

TULALIP – The water coming from Gary Simeral’s faucets had slowed to a trickle when he raced outside to tend to his potted roses.

There was just enough time to quench their thirst when the water completely stopped flowing.

Simeral’s faucets were dry.

“I’m going to have to go down and buy some bottled water,” he said.

Simeral’s Mission Beach Heights home was one of between 700 and 800 homes served by the Tulalip Utilities District that lost water Thursday morning, on a day that promised to be among the summer’s hottest.

One of the wells that supplies water for the utilities district caved in on itself, tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon said. The pump’s electrical system burned out, he said.

The tanks were drained by heavy summer use before the pump was repaired.

Utility crews began work to fix the problem Thursday morning, public works Executive Director Gus Taylor said.

Water service was expected to resume sometime Thursday night.

The utilities district is owned by the Tulalip Tribes. It serves about 1,700 homes within the Tulalip Indian Reservation. The rest of the reservation’s homes rely on private wells or on water from the city of Marysville.

Sheldon said tribal crews will replace the caved-in well by this time next year.

Tribal leaders say it won’t be long before the aquifer that supplies their water system won’t be able to support the reservation’s growing population. The tribes’ membership, which now numbers about 3,600 people, is expected to double by 2020.

Already, the aquifer drops as much as 50 feet each year, Sheldon said last month. Each summer, some residents complain of murky water that’s not drinkable.

Tribal leaders hope to bring a 36-inch pipeline to the reservation from the city of Everett that could provide 36 million gallons of water each day, but it could take years to secure the $60 million they estimate the project will cost.

Many of the homes that lost water Thursday are clustered in mini-neighborhoods at the end of long gravel driveways that curve away from Turk Road.

Residents there emerged from their forested enclaves to seek help from neighbors who are on private well systems.

“We’ve been having people come by this morning for coffee, water, or just to use the bathroom,” said Dana Lewis. Lewis’ small home, which hugs Turk Road, relies on a private well.

Justin Jimicum discovered he’d lost water at his home when he stopped there for lunch Thursday.

“We’re going to have to get jugs of water,” he said.

If the water outage persists too long, he said, “we’ll probably go to a motel.”

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@ heraldnet.com.

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