Sediment inside Elwha water plant stops repair work; Port Angeles city water remains clean
By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The city continues to have clean water, Public Works Director Glenn Cutler said Friday.
Construction crews with Lakewood-based Macnak Construction have been ordered to stop work after having replaced two of the six screens on the water intakes of the Elwha Surface Water Intake with mechanically cleaned screens, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Friday.
The intake screens were intended to stop large river debris from getting into the Elwha Water Treatment Plant after work began to remove two dams on the river, Maynes said.
But Elwha plant staff have been working long hours to clear sediment from the facility's internal parts, she said.
“The overall summary is, sediment is entering areas of the plant it was not intended to enter,” she said.
“The plant has a lot of pumps, screens, filters and clarifying tanks — none of which were intended to have sediment moving through,” she added.
“The Park Service is continuing to investigate the cause of the issues.”
Plant staff members decided their work would be made easier by halting the intake screen replacement, she said.
“[Plant] staff found a couple of issues they felt would be better to resolve before finishing the entire fish screen installation,” Maynes said, adding that she knew no more details and didn't know when crews would resume replacement.
The plant is still processing river water to safe thresholds, but to a limited extent, she said.
Clean water for Port Angeles continues to be provided by the city's Ranney well, which collects both ground and surface water from a side channel of the Elwha River, Cutler said.
“We're still making high-quality water,” Cutler said.
The screen replacement work, funded by the National Park Service, is part of a $1.4 million contract with Macnak signed earlier this year.
The screens were being replaced as what Park Service officials have called “corrections” to the plant, which was designed to filter sediment released during the $325 million Elwha River Restoration Project.
There was an estimated 34 million cubic yards of sediment behind both dams, with about 6 million having moved down the river, officials have said.
The problems with the Elwha Water Treatment Plant, first recognized last fall, means it has not been able to provide enough filtered water to the Port Angeles Water Treatment Plant, Nippon Paper Industries USA, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon-rearing channel and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe's fish hatchery.
Salmon are being raised in the hatchery and rearing channel to revive the river's storied salmon run.
Initially, Maynes said, the plan was to replace the screens on the plant's secondary intake first, which has been done, and then work on the remaining four screens on the main intake.
“The idea was to make the secondary intake operational so we could fix the problems on the main one,” Maynes said.
However, plant staff changed this plan once they learned more about what the sediment was doing to the plant's internal components, Maynes explained.
Maynes said screen replacement work will restart once “there's a determination that other components of the plant are in a condition to benefit from the complete installation.”
Maynes could not say how the contract with Macnak Construction might change, other than that the finish date will have to be updated.
“If there's a price difference, that will be negotiated, but I don't know what that might be,” Maynes said.
Removal of the remaining 60 feet of Glines Canyon Dam, on hold since October in part because of the Elwha Water Treatment Plant problems, is still expected to restart this July, Maynes said.
The demolition of Elwha Dam, downstream from Glines Canyon, wrapped up in March 2012.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Reporter Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.
Last modified: April 20. 2013 6:07PM