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Water crisis in Oregon city as officials await test results

A boil water notice is in effect in Amity at least until Wednesday afternoon when test results are due back from a lab in Wilsonville.

AMITY, Ore. (KATU) — Oregon Health Authority (OHA) said the water crisis that started Sunday night in Amity is the first of its kind for the small city in Yamhill County.

The city is about 40 miles Southwest of Portland.

Residents there are under a boil water notice that's expected to continue at least until Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan Modie, an OHA spokesman, said overall the city is following regulations. He told KATU the city's complete water outage, which lasted until Monday evening, was its first.

Toilets are flushing and water is flowing from faucets but Mayor Michael Cape said the city's nearly 2,000 water customers are being told to take precautions.

"If anybody wants to use the water for cooking or making ice or brushing your teeth, anything like that, that water has to be boiled," Cape, who declared a state of emergency Monday, told KATU.

The so-called non-potable tap water also has to be boiled if you plan to drink it.

"Toiletry needs or taking a shower, washing your hands, you can use non-potable water for that," Cape explained.

Cape said the problem started around 10 p.m. Sunday when the reservoirs ran out of water.

He said a computer glitch caused the pumping station to malfunction.

When asked if there was any warning before that, Cape said, "Well, that was one of the problems. Once the computer got stuck in a cycle where it wasn't able to run the plant properly the alarms also malfunctioned and didn't send off the warning to us that we were getting into a critical point."

Users didn't have water in their homes until Monday evening when city staff members started running the plant manually.

Around 1 a.m. Tuesday Cape said the computer started pumping water again but they had to wait for it to get back up to normal pressure, then test it.

"When you lose that pressure then you create a void that can allow contaminants to get into the water lines," Cape said.

In the meantime, bottled water is available at the fire station.

"It really creates a big inconvenience," said Jason Park, who lives in Amity and works at the local grocery store where the ice machines and fountain drinks are currently off-limits to customers. "It seems very strange that a computer glitch would cause the whole city's water to go out, that they should have some sort of program to monitor that."

Cape said the city is looking into what caused the glitch and making sure it doesn't happen again.

He said water samples were sent to a lab in Wilsonville late Tuesday afternoon and results are due back in 24 hours.

When asked about the name of the computer system used at the pumping station, Cape said, "It has been requested by staff to not release that information for cybersecurity reasons."

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