Woman living in HASCO-owned apartment concerned about water quality
LYNNWOOD, Wash., September 7, 2022—A Lynnwood woman living in a Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) property was appalled to turn on her kitchen faucet, back in July of this year, to find the water was running cloudy and orange. After two months and countless follow ups by the tenant with HASCO maintenance, the problem has still not been resolved.
“It feels like I’m living in a third world country. Water should be a basic human right. Especially with paying rent, I should be able to live in a cleaner place with cleaner water,” the tenant, who requested to remain anonymous, told the Lynnwood Times.
At least three work orders in three separate units have been filed with HASCO at Timberglen Apartments, located at 5710 200th St SW, involving water discoloration, two of which have since been closed. Many of the residents at Timberglen reported that they filter their water and have for years.
“It looks like watered down orange soda, it is not clear enough to be drinking water…I would not serve this water to any living being,” the tenant said. “HASCO has not helped me out in any way…Exactly what they stand for is exactly what is not happening here.”
HASCO provides housing solutions for the people and communities of Snohomish County by connecting people with federal and local programs that help with rent, provide affordable housing in places they own and support their tenants with services.
After emailing the maintenance team at HASCO the tenant found a paper on her door a couple days later with a handwritten note that said, “We don’t test the water. We look at the city tests. If the water is ran for a short time, the orange color goes away. We have very old pipes in the building that causes the color. If you are still concerned a water filter could be used at your expense.”
Timberglen Apartments is a low-income apartment complex and the tenant shared with the Lynnwood Times she had already spent around $50 on bottled water to have drinkable water for her and her daughter, as well as an undetermined amount on takeout food since she did not feel safe using her apartment’s water to cook.
“It’s been a disruption emotionally, financially and mentally. It’s so embarrassing, my daughter asked me why we can’t we use the water,” the tenant said.
Although the city of Lynnwood supplies water to the Timberglen Apartment complex, Jared Bond, Lynnwood Public Works Manager, confirmed with the Lynnwood Times that the Department’s responsibility ends at the water meter and all maintenance, repairs, testing lies with HASCO.
“While we test our water supply regularly, we do not ordinarily test water from private fixtures,” Bond said. “We have not tested water at that address as it is not part of our normal operating practices.”
After Snohomish County Councilwoman Megan Dunn reached out to HASCO on this matter, HASCO employees collected water, taken from the basement bathroom, and sent the samples to be analyzed by Simple Lab. The results found moderate corrosion and 0.0009 mg/l of lead in one sample, far below the 0.015 mg/L action set by the EPA under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), deeming it “safe to drink”. Another test taken after the water had run for a while showed no sign of lead at all. HASCO then reached out to the tenant assuring her the water was safe for drinking.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has reduced the maximum allowable lead content — that is, content that is considered “lead-free” — to be a weighted average of 0.25 percent calculated across the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures and 0.2 percent for solder and flux.
Since the samples taken were not from the unit in question, the tenant then collected a sample of her own and paying out-of-pocket had it analyzed independently by the City of Everett Environmental Laboratory. It is unknown if adequate measures were taken by the tenant to prevent cross-contamination of water sample.
The results found 0.30 ug/l of arsenic present which is under the current drinking water standard, or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) from the EPA set at 10 ug/L (micrograms per liter). However, the test results also showed coliform present in the water sample taken by the tenant.
Coliform bacteria are present in the environment and feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. Coliform bacteria are unlikely to cause illness, unless the consumer is immunocompromised. However, the presence of coliform bacteria in drinking water indicates that disease-causing organisms (pathogens) could be in the water system, according to the Washington Department of Health. Typically, if testing detects coliform bacteria in a water sample a lab will also test for e coli, a subgroup of fecal coliform. Thankfully for the tenant, her water source came back negative for e Coli.
The tenant stated that the lab informed her that a possible source for the coliform bacteria could be due to old pipes. Timberglen was built in 1968 and, according to an employee of a plumbing employee, who has responded to numerous work orders at the property, all of the waste pipes at the building are original except for the washing machine waste lines. He explained in a work order description last month that the pipes are “old galvanized waste lines so there is a ton of scaling and rust deposits.” Many plumbing websites say galvanized pipes have a life expectancy of 40 to 50 years making the, potentially, 54-year-old pipes close to expiration.
HASCO has not replaced the pipes since acquiring the building in 2019 and does not possess records on the building’s maintenance before its purchase. The Lynnwood Times has requested the building’s maintenance history to see if the pipes have been replaced since their initial installation in 1968 and are awaiting the corresponding reports.
According to Tiffany Eve, a former HASCO employee working in Maintenance, told the Lynnwood Times that HASCO did not want to invest in the expensive process of replacing pipes because they “were planning to tear the building down anyway.”
Duane Leonard, Executive Director for HASCO, confirmed with the Lynnwood Times that HASCO has no plans on replacing the plumbing at Timberglen but denied Eve’s claim that HASCO had any intention to demolish the building. He added if there was a problem in a specific unit it would be addressed.
“HASCO takes the safety and health of our residents seriously,” Leonard told the Lynnwood Times. “[We] will be conducting more water testing to ensure the quality of the water in this building. We are continuing to investigate and will take reasonable action based on the results.”
Last night, September 6, HASCO took a water sample from the tenant’s apartment and should be receiving results in the next week. The results will determine HASCO’s next steps.
Tiffany Eve informed the Lynnwood Times that she reached out to Councilwoman Julieta Altamirano-Crosby on the matter who informed us that she will work with HASCO to ensure safe drinking water for the tenants of Timberglen apartments.
“I will be following up with the tenant on results from HASCO’s water sample,” Councilwoman Altamirano-Crosby told the Lynnwood Times. “I truly appreciate HASCO for taking this matter seriously and I look forward working with them to resolve this matter for all residents if a problem exist.”
One thought on “Woman living in HASCO-owned apartment concerned about water quality”
As an area multi family manager I can say that this is probably, as mentioned, due to older heavily oxidized galvanized or possibly cast iron pipes. We had a similar problem at a Seattle property built in the early 1900s and it was found to be fairly high levels of ferric and ferrous iron in the water. It can also be from manganese. Both are generally safe and come from older water supply lines made from galvanized or cast iron. We choose to update to copper supply lines and a PEX water main to resolve the problem. It solved the concern but also reduced risk of major plumbing failures down the road as heavily rusted pipes can start leaking. Updating plumbing is not a cheap undertaking and also not a quick fix and does have quite some impact on tenants so they have to be ready for water shut offs and intrusions to their unit. Our tenants were more concerned by the color of water (even though multiple tests showed it was entirely safe), we were concerned about plumbing failures and didn’t want constant calls about the issue so everyone was happy to have it fixed in the long run.