Much of Hood River’s usually-vibrant restaurant scene was quiet this week, as businesses shut their doors for all or part of the city’s three-day Boil Water Advisory.
The Boil Water Advisory — a public health warning to boil water for one minute before consuming — was first issued around 10 a.m. Monday morning, following a leak in the city’s water main at approximately 6 p.m. Sunday evening.
The break itself happened in River Daze’s parking lot on Third Street, where a sink hole has also formed. The City of Hood River is working to repair everything and will begin investigating the cause of the leak next week, said Hood River Police Lt. Don Cheli.
Water service was restored at approximately 7:15 p.m. on Sunday, but the City of Hood River waited until Monday morning to issue the Advisory because, said City Manager Rachael Fuller, the city needed time to assess the situation and determine the extent of the damage before issuing an official advisory.
Oregon law dictates that water regulators must notify customers of a Boil Water Advisory within 24-hours of the incident, after assessing whether the advisory is necessary.
The city confirmed that there was no evidence of harmful bacteria in the water system around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, but as a precaution, kept the advisory in effect until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when they received water sample results that confirmed the water was safe to drink.
“I feel like we should have known sooner,” said Sheri Castaneda, owner of Bette’s Place. Bette’s is open from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and had to close quickly when Castaneda learned of the advisory, she said.
Bette’s stayed closed for the duration of the advisory, but was able to open business-as-usual Thursday morning after coming in late Wednesday to sanitize and prep. “I feel like we missed out on a lot,” she said, “but what are you going to do?
The primary health concern with a loss of pressure event is E. Coli, which can cause some cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections, and other illnesses, according to the CDC; boiling water effectively kills the bacteria.
The City of Hood River identified a primary section affected by the water leak — downtown Hood River from Sherman to Columbia, east of Ninth Street — but applied the advisory city-wide as a precaution, said Cheli, and Hood River County Environmental Health officially requested that all food establishments remain closed for the duration of the Boil Water Advisory.
Some businesses obliged and shut their doors.
Castaneda expressed frustration about receiving mixed messages from Hood River County Environmental Health Department and the City of Hood River, and an overall lack of communication during the advisory.
“Hopefully, if it happens again they can be more on top of letting us know,” she said.
Solstice Wood Fire Pizza, Café & Bar was closed for two and a half days because of the advisory, but reopened for half of the day Wednesday after the advisory was lifted.
“It was an unfortunate situation for all of us involved,” said Solstice’s Ben Pubbs. “I don’t know what the communication breakdown between everyone was, but it’s bound to happen in a panicked state,” he added.
Some businesses, however, found ways to keep their doors open for at least part of the three-day advisory: River Daze Café stopped serving items that included water and used boiled water for food prep and sanitation, and many coffee shops, such as Dog River Coffee, exclusively served pour-overs.
Double Mountain Brewery was able to operate “business almost as usual” throughout the advisory, said Manager Matt Bynum, due to a contingency plan put in place this summer.
After Pacific Power announced the Public Safety Power Shutoff, a policy to shut off power in at-risk areas during weather conditions that could cause catastrophic wildfires, Double Mountain began setting aside stores of fresh water “just in case,” Bynum said. “A just-in-case moment happened on Sunday.”
The brewery brought in kegs of clean water and filled up blue jugs with hot water for handwashing. Aside from not having ice and a few extra steps that employees had to follow to get water, Double Mountain was unaffected by the advisory.
“It was nice to be able to be open during a crisis,” Bynum said. “People want to rub elbows with people when they’re also experiencing anxiety (from a crisis).” The brewery will refill its water stores for the summer, Bynum said, and plans to possibly add some extra generators into its contingency plan.
At May Street School, “With some careful planning we had little impact to students or staff,” principal Kelly Beard said.
“We were close communiction with the District prior to opening school Tuesday morning, and we planned to shut off any water access points.” Valves were easily turned on all but the refrigerated drinking founains in the hallways; those were covered with plastic and “do not drink” signs.
The school put out hand sanitizers and drinking water, and worked with food services to provide heat-and-serve meals that didn’t require any water or reconstitution. Cleaning was done with boiled water.
“We could have gone longer — not that we wanted to.”